Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Helpful Treatment Options You Need to Know
Let’s be honest, we all lose some strands of hair each day. But the anxiety arises when you notice larger than usual strands of hair—from your bathtub or shower drain to your pillow and hair brushes. Even the hair strands lying everywhere in your house could be a sign of diabetes hair loss! It makes you wonder, ‘is losing such large clumps of hair in a day normal?’ Perhaps you had diabetes for some time and never considered it to be a cause for hair loss. So, can diabetes cause hair loss? Is your hair loss related to diabetes?
Before we dig deep, let’s understand the normal hair growth cycle.
Know your hair growth cycle
When it comes to your hair growth cycle, it’s broken down into four stages—anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. The anagen phase is the growth phase of your hair, where your hair shaft extends lengthwise. And about 80 to 90 per cent of your hair is in this phase, which lasts for about six years.
Next comes the catagen phase, where your hair detaches itself from the blood supply. In this phase, your hair stops growing and lasts for about a week or two. Following this phase is the telogen phase, in which you form new hair beneath your detached hair. This phase lasts for about three months. Finally comes the exogen phase, where your hair shedding takes place. And new hair grows in its place.
Moreover, it’s perfectly normal to shed between 50 to 100 telogen hairs daily, according to the American Association of Dermatology. But the problem arises when you lose too much of your hair or when new hair doesn’t grow beneath your telogen hairs.
Hair loss and diabetes
Whether you are a man or woman, losing your hair can negatively affect your social image. It also affects your interpersonal relationships. Since hair is a part of your personality, losing hair or going bald can be highly depressing.
Generally, hair loss falls into three main categories—alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and androgenetic alopecia. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that destroys your hair follicles. Often, telogen effluvium occurs as a result of stress or hormonal changes (postpartum hair loss). And androgenetic alopecia is the male pattern of baldness seen in men, which results in receding hair lines and thinning.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, 90 per cent of men experience male pattern baldness. But how is diabetes and hair loss connected? Does diabetes affect your hair and hair growth cycle? Let’s find out.
Can diabetes cause hair loss?
You probably did not associate your hair loss with diabetes. Like everything else in your body, your hair also suffers from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a common type of diabetes many people experience. Insulin resistance and insufficient glucose production result in high blood glucose levels.
Moreover, chronic diabetes affects your blood vessels and blood supply to various parts of your body, including your hair. More importantly, your hair cells and tissues require an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen for a healthy growth cycle. That is how diabetes cause hair loss when your hair doesn’t receive enough nutrients and oxygen from the blood. It leads to your hair falling out in huge chunks.
Your hair growth cycle gets compromised due to poor blood circulation. It makes your shedding phase active and your growth phase weak. Eventually, you see visible signs of diabetic hair loss like thinning of hair and receding hairline. If you see hair loss in other parts of your body, like legs and arms, it could be a sign of poor blood circulation. Make sure to seek help from a healthcare professional to assess your situation better.
Hair loss with Type-1 diabetes
As it turns out, type-1 diabetes can cause hair loss, too. It is alopecia areata that people with type-1 diabetes commonly experience. It is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks your hair follicles. As a result, you lose patches of hair on the centre of your scalp and in other parts of your body. Also, it can make you bald on the head (known as alopecia totalis).
While the cause of alopecia areata is unknown, it could be a hereditary component. If you have a family history of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, lupus, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, you are more likely to develop alopecia areata.
Thyroid levels and diabetes that cause hair loss
Experts suggest that if you are diabetic, you should check your thyroid levels. Since type-1 diabetic people have a higher chance of developing hypothyroidism, it can result in severe hair loss. In most cases, if you stick to your medications for thyroid disease, your thyroid levels become normal. It will reduce the hair loss you experience to a significant extent.
High stress-cortisol levels and hair loss
More and more people live in stressful situations and experience anxiety. And if you have diabetes, you will release more stress hormones (cortisol), which leads to insulin resistance. As a result, your blood glucose increases and affects your hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
Medications and restrictive diets for diabetes
Generally, metformin is the most widely used oral medication for diabetes. And this could have a potential link to losing more hair indirectly, as it reduces vitamin B12 absorption. Other medications like immunosuppressants and antidepressants can also lead to hair loss.
Apart from these, many follow restrictive diets for diabetes weight management. It could deprive you of several nutrients. When your body lacks nutrients, you experience hair loss.
Is your hair loss a sign of diabetes?
If you are experiencing excessive shedding, it could be a sign of diabetic hair loss. Some signs of diabetes hair loss include:
- Severe falling out of hair
- Thinning of hair
- Decrease in hair growth speed
- Brittle and rough-looking hair
However, these are not the only signs of diabetes. You need to be aware of the clearer signs and symptoms of diabetes, like excessive urination, thirst, persistent hunger, and fatigue. Also, you can consult a health practitioner to check your blood glucose levels to confirm if you are diabetic. It will help you understand if diabetes is the cause of your hair loss. So that you can receive effective treatment for the same.
Treatment options for diabetes which cause hair loss
Often, the effects of diabetes on your hair can make your search for a solution more difficult. First and foremost, diabetes management is essential. If diabetes is the cause of your hair loss, you can regrow the hair on your mane by keeping your sugar in check.
Moreover, there is hair transplant surgery, which is an expensive treatment. Also, there are several medications for diabetes hair loss like minoxidil and finasteride (only for adult men). You can even use natural essential oils like rosemary and lavender for your hair growth. Also, eating nutrient-rich food with protein, biotin, and zinc is essential. Restore your luscious hair by giving it all the attention it deserves!
- Coogan, P. F., Bethea, T. N., Cozier, Y. C., Bertrand, K. A., Palmer, J. R., Rosenberg, L., & Lenzy, Y. (2019). Association of type 2 diabetes with central-scalp hair loss in a large cohort study of African American women. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 5(4), 261–266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2019.05.010