The Thyroid and Hair Loss – Everything You Need to Know
It’s perfectly normal to lose hair on a daily basis. The scalp works hard to manage the natural lifecycle of the hair, which naturally sheds hair at the end of its life. On a normal, healthy basis, we lose around 100 hairs a day.
If we start to notice we’re losing much more than this, then it could be the sign of something untoward going on. Nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and stress are all major factors of hair loss.
But a thyroid problem could also be to blame for hair loss.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is a small gland that is found at the front of the neck. It’s responsible for producing hormones that the body needs to help regulate things such as heart rate and body temperature. These hormones are called triiodothyronine (also known as T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Sometimes, the thyroid can either produce too little or too much of these hormones.
If it produces too little, it’s underactive and you have a condition called hypothyroidism. Symptoms include:
• Feeling tired and lacking in energy
• Feeling constantly cold
• Gaining weight
• Feeling depressed
• Being constipated
• Having muscle cramps, aches and weakness
• Feeling a numbness or a tingling feeling in the hands and fingers
• Experiencing dry, itch or scaly skin
• Experiencing brittle nails and hair loss
If your thyroid produces too much of these hormones, it’s overactive, and you have a condition called hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
• Feeling nervous, tetchy or anxious and experiencing mood swings
• Being full of energy and becoming hyperactive
• Feeling hot and sweaty
• Having an increased heart rate (palpitations)
• Losing weight despite having an increase in appetite
• Finding it hard to sleep (insomnia)
• Having diarrhoea and passing oily stools
• Experiencing muscle weakness
• Experiencing hair loss
You’ll note that with symptoms such weight gain vs weight loss and a lack of energy vs an overabundance of energy, the two conditions are mostly the opposite of each other. The symptom they both have in common however, is hair loss. An imbalance of the thyroid hormones, whether by being too low or too high, can lead to hair loss.
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
Another type of thyroid condition is called autoimmune thyroid disease. This is when the body makes antibodies that attack the thyroid, because the body mistakenly believes that the thyroid is a foreign body. This condition is also known as thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease.
• Feeling tired
• Feeling cold
• Having an enlarged tongue
• Experiencing muscle and joint aches and pains
• Feeling depressed
• Being constipated
• Experiencing brittle nails and pale skin
• Hair loss
You’ll notice that with autoimmune thyroid disease, hair loss is also one of the symptoms.
The Thyroid Gland and it’s Effect on Hair Loss
Hair loss associated with thyroid problems generally affects the entire scalp. This means that you’ll notice thinning hair all over your head, rather than in patches. Understandably, this is upsetting, but the good news is, hair loss caused by thyroid problems is usually reversible.
So why does having a thyroid gland that isn’t functioning properly, lead to problems with hair loss in the first place?
Whether you have an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid, it’s most likely caused by an underlying autoimmune condition. Doctors aren’t yet entirely sure what triggers the body’s immune system to turn on itself, but this is currently a large area of research. It’s thought that if you have one autoimmune condition, such as thyroid disease, you’re more likely to have another.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the hair follicles that are in the anagen stage of growth. The hair goes through a four stage growth cycle, and the anagen stage is when the hair is growing. (The other stages involve resting, transition and shedding phases.) Inflamed hair follicles in this stage will cease to grow any new hairs, resulting in hair loss.
People with thyroid disease caused by an autoimmune condition can be more prone to experiencing alopecia areata. In fact, the two quite often go hand in hand.
Undergoing treatment for your thyroid condition usually means that associated hair loss is reversed. After a few months of seeking treatment from a doctor, you should notice new hair growth and thicker feeling hair.
Another autoimmune condition that is linked with thyroid disease is lupus. This can cause scarring to the skin, including that of the scalp, resulting in permanent damage to the hair follicles and irreversible hair loss.
Can Someone With a Thyroid Problem Undergo a Hair Transplant?
Everyone is different, and this includes those with thyroid disease. Whether or not you’re suitable for a hair transplant if you have a thyroid disorder depends on your personal circumstances.
But the point is, it isn’t a definite no. People with thyroid-related hair loss do undergo successful hair transplants, but only once their thyroid is under control, usually using daily medications.
A hair transplant is especially effective in thyroid patients who despite having their thyroid gland under control, have only seen partial hair regrowth. It’s ideal if hair regrowth is patchy, leaving thinner parts in patches over the scalp.
If you’re worried about your thyroid, it’s important to speak to your doctor. Having a diagnosis of a thyroid condition will help you onto a treatment plan that will help to keep your condition under control. Our hair experts are also on hand to discuss your thyroid condition, if you’re thinking about having a hair transplant. Book your free online hair loss consultation today, and discover how we can help.