What Does Thyroid Disease
Unlike male pattern baldness, the hair loss of thyroid disease usually involves your whole scalp and not just certain areas. So rather than a receding hairline or bald spots, it’s typical for all of the hair to appear sparse or thin. The exception is alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that sometimes occurs with thyroid disease, which does cause bald patches.
What Is Hashimotos Thyroiditis
Hashimotoâs thyroiditis, also known as autoimmune thyroid disease, can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. According to the American Thyroid Association, it is an autoimmune disorder that causes long-term inflammation of the thyroid. Over time, the thyroid gland struggles to produce enough thyroid hormones, which leads to a slow or underactive thyroid . Hashimotoâs thyroiditis occurs most commonly in middle-aged women, but it can appear at any age and sometimes affects men and children.
Thyroid Conditions And Hair Loss: What You Need To Know
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Is your hair starting to look thinner than usual? Its common for men to experience some degree of hair loss at some point in our lives. In fact, one form of hair loss called androgenetic alopecia is thought to affect 50 million men in the United States alone.
While androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss men experience, hair loss can also occur as a result of certain medical conditions.
If you have a thyroid condition such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, its possible that this could contribute to hair loss. Thyroid conditions can also occur in conjunction with autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata, which can affect the growth of your hair.
Hair loss from thyroid conditions can vary in severity, from mild diffuse thinning to almost total loss of hair on your scalp. Below, weve explained why and how thyroid-related hair loss occurs, as well as what you can do to treat hair loss thats caused by a thyroid condition.
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Thyroid Disorder & Hair Loss Whats The Connection
Statistics show that in India close to 12 million people annually are affected by thyroid malfunction, of which hair loss is a common symptom.
It has been proven that hair growth is highly dependent on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. These effects are seen when there is an increase in hair thinning or a high rate of hair loss anywhere on the body.
The Life Cycle Of Hair
To identify the difference between normal hair loss and that related to a thyroid condition, it’s important to understand the three phases of the hair life cycle. These include:
Verywell / Emily Roberts
- Anagen phase: This is the growth phase, meaning your hair is actively growing. The rate of growth and duration depends on the type of hair and where it’s located. At any given time, about 90% of the hair on your scalp is in the anagen phase.
- Catagen phase: Hair then enters this “transition phase” during which hair stops actively growing. This lasts about three weeks and involves less than 1% of the hairs on your scalp at a time.
- Telogen phase: During this last phase, a hair prepares to shed it is then pushed out of the follicle and falls out. Typically, about 50 and 150 telogen hairs are shed per day. These hairs are then replaced by new growth and the cycle begins again.
Thyroid-related hair loss and hair changes have some characteristic patterns, including:
- Diffuse hair loss/thinning across the whole scalp
- Hair loss that occurs in discrete areas of the scalp, resulting in smooth, circular bald patches
- Loss of body hair from areas other than your head: A unique and characteristic symptom of hypothyroidism is the loss of the hair on the outer edges of your eyebrows
- Changes in your hair’s texture: With hypothyroidism, your hair may become dry or coarse with hyperthyroidism, it can become extra soft and fine
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Hair Loss And Thyroid
Hair loss and thyroid problems are often found together. They share the same root causes and often occur in tandem. The good news is that they can be fixed separately or together with a little bit of effort and persistence. The root causes for hair loss and thyroid problems are the same. In most cases, hair loss will come from dieting, excessive exercise, and drinking too much water. Thyroid problems arise when the body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone to normal levels. This is often because of age, thyroid disease, and other illnesses. With a little bit of effort and persistence, you can get your hair and thyroid back to good health.
What Causes The Link Between Thyroid Issues And Hair Loss
The root causes for hair loss and thyroid problems are the same. In most cases, theyre caused by a lack of iodine in the diet.
Both hair loss and thyroid problems happen when theres not enough iodine in the body to meet all of our nutritional needs. That also means that fixing one will fix the other.
Treating your thyroid problem is often the best way to treat your hair loss as well, because it solves both problems at once! The thyroid controls how much hormone is produced in the body. When this hormone isnt regulated properly, it can create all kinds of health problems, like hair loss or thyroid issues.
You dont have to take any medication for these issues if you simply change your diet. Increasing your intake of iodine-rich foods can help you avoid these conditions altogether or fix them if youve already developed either problem.
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How To Stop Thinning Hair: Hair Loss Treatment For Women
Medications are the most common treatment for hair loss in women. They include the following:
Minoxidil . This drug was initially introduced as a treatment for high blood pressure, but people who took it noticed that they were growing hair in places where they had lost it. Research studies confirmed that minoxidil applied directly to the scalp could stimulate hair growth. As a result of the studies, the FDA originally approved over-the-counter 2% minoxidil to treat hair loss in women. Since then a 5% solution has also become available when a stronger solution is need for a womans hair loss.
Clearly, minoxidil is not a miracle drug. While it can produce some new growth of fine hair in some not all women, it cant restore the full density of the lost hair. Its not a quick fix, either for hair loss in women . You wont see results until you use the drug for at least two months. The effect often peaks at around four months, but it could take longer, so plan on a trial of six to 12 months. If minoxidil works for you, youll need to keep using it to maintain those results. If you stop, youll start to lose hair again.
Some women find that the minoxidil solution leaves a deposit that dries and irritates their scalp. This irritation, called contact dermatitis, is probably caused not by the minoxidil itself, but rather by the alcohol that is included to facilitate drying.
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Is Subclinical Hypothyroidism Reversible
While subclinical hypothyroidism represents a problem in your body and in your hormones, it also represents the opportunity to catch a problem before it snowballs out of control.
For this reason, it’s very important to get the diagnosis early so that you can seek out and find the problem.
One question you might be asking yourself is this:
Can I improve my thyroid function?
And the answer is almost always yes, to some degree.
Because most physicians aren’t really willing to prescribe thyroid hormone for this condition that leaves you with the ability to take matters into your own hands and take some steps to improve your thyroid function.
Treating Subclinical Hypothyroidism Naturally
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism and want to be active and aggressive about your condition I recommend starting with these tips:
*Note you may ultimately need physician help to get proper treatment, but you can start here.
#1. Address basic nutrient deficiencies in your body.
You can easily evaluate for basic vitamin deficiencies like B12, Vitamin D3, Folic acid, and omega 3 fatty acids.
In addition, many patients have existing deficiencies of nutrients like zinc and selenium.
Simply checking for and replacing can often time dramatically reduce symptoms.
#2. Check to see if your impaired thyroid status is due to Hashimoto’s or autoimmune thyroiditis.
And take further steps to help reduce your antibody level which will, in turn, increase your thyroid function.
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Are There Other Causes
Nutritional deficiencies are definitely something that you should look into if you have hair loss.
Iron deficiency anaemia can cause hair loss so always check your iron levels. Dr Philip Kingsley, Trichologist, states that ferritin levels also need to be checked and that, Even if the ferritin is within the normal range, the level may still not be adequate for optimum hair growth.
He states, Hair loss due to low ferritin is one of the most common types of hair loss we see in women. 3 Be careful when supplementing with iron as it can be toxic Toxic “something poisonous, very harmful or bad” .
B12 deficiency may cause hair loss although evidence is sparse.4
Biotin deficiency has also been reported as a cause of hair loss and some people found that it improved after taking supplements. You need to be aware, though, that taking biotin Biotin “a vitamin found in small amounts in many foods such as eggs, milk, or bananas. Commonly used for hair loss, brittle nails, nerve damage, and many other conditions” can show skewed levels in your test results. 5,6
Other vitamin deficiencies that may play a role in hair loss are vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E.4 The mineral, zinc, also plays a part in hair loss.4,5
Taking vitamin supplements may not always be helpful, though. Too much Vitamin A has been reported as causing hair loss so be careful with this vitamin.4
Symptoms Of Hair Loss Due To Hypothyroidism
The hair loss itself is something you will spot yourself. But knowing how to distinguish hair loss that is rooted in hypothyroidism as opposed to other causes is important, so you can get the right treatment. The British Thyroid Foundation points out some of the key features that include:2
- Hair loss is diffused.
- Hair loss at the edge of the eyebrows, beginning with thinning on the outer edges, is a noticeable feature.
- Loss happens across the scalp, not in discrete sections.
- Hair seems uniformly sparse.
- Hair loss appears many months after the thyroid disease itself has taken hold, so watch for symptoms of thyroid disease like weight gain, fatigue, puffy face, constipation, joint or muscle aches, difficulty with cold temperatures/weather, less sweating, dry skin, heavy/irregular periods, and slowed heart rate.3
If the hair loss is discrete or in patches, its probably caused by alopecia areata, not hypothyroidism. Use onion juice to cure hair fall due to alopecia areata.
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Adjust Your Thyroid Medication
A primary root cause of hair loss is a deficiency in thyroid hormone. This could be because youre not getting a high enough dose of thyroid medications, or because youre not getting the right kind of thyroid medication.
When your TSH is on the outskirts of the normal range, you can continue to lose hair, and your hair may lack luster and shine. If your hair tangles easily, this is a sign that you may not be getting enough thyroid hormone.
In 2015, I conducted asurvey of 2232 people with Hashimotos that resulted in as many as 36 percent of patients reporting that optimizing their TSH helped with improving their hair. Optimizing the type of thyroid medications they were taking also helped many people restore hair growth. As many as 38 percent of people surveyed reported that Nature-Thyroid helped to improve their hair however, it is important that you find the thyroid medication that is right for you.
*Note: While Armour Thyroid does not have any gluten-containing ingredients, it is not tested for gluten content, and cannot be certified as gluten-free. Armour does contain sodium starch glycolate, which can be derived from wheat or corn.
To learn more about how to optimize your thyroid medications, download my free eBook on Optimizing Thyroid Medications below.
Ignoring Their Brain Health
The most common form of collateral damage in chronic Hashimotos patients is accelerated brain degeneration. Brain degeneration leads to identical symptoms of hypothyroidism, including fatigue and depression. I strongly suggest all thyroid patients become experts in identifying and supporting their brain health by referring to my second book, Why Isnt My Brain Working?
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How Common Is It To Experience Hair Loss From Thyroid Medication
It’s fairly common to see some hair loss due to thyroid medication. Usually, this is due to overmedication, which leads to hyperthyroidism, because hair loss is a symptom of both low and high levels of thyroid hormone. In most people, this is a short-lived side effect that occurs in the first month of treatment.
How To Treat Thyroid
If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with a thyroid condition, youll likely be prescribed medication to treat your condition.
For hyperthyroidism, your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-thyroid medication such as Tapazole® or propylthiouracil. These medications stop your thyroid gland from producing overly high levels of thyroid hormones.
Depending on your symptoms, treatment for hyperthyroidism may include radioactive iodine and/or beta-blockers. Severe cases of hyperthyroidism are occasionally treated by removing some or all of the thyroid gland in a procedure known as thyroidectomy.
Most of the time, thyroid-related hair loss resolves on its own after you successfully treat the underlying condition. After treating your thyroid condition, it can take several months for your hair to start growing again.
You might be able to speed up this growth using minoxidil, a topical medication that improves blood flow to the scalp. Because thyroid-related hair loss isnt caused by DHT, finasteride isnt effective at treating or preventing this form of hair loss.
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Common Thyroid Conditions & Hair Fall Issues
The thyroid gland is located along the windpipe and is responsible for producing a hormone that helps with cell reproduction, maintains energy levels, and influences metabolism.
When thyroid levels become imbalanced, the following thyroid diseases can occur
- Hypothyroidism is a condition with an under-active thyroid gland which can directly be attributed to hair thinning and hair loss if left untreated. An insufficient amount of thyroid hormone is produced which, in turn, compromises the chemical reactions required in the body. It results in a low cell regeneration factor. Low levels of iron and nutritional deficiencies are common factors for hypothyroidism.
- Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of the thyroid hormone. The bodys metabolism rate increases leading to hair loss, weight loss, irregular heartbeat, sweating, anxiety, and mood swings. This condition is not easily diagnosed due to the generic nature of its symptoms but can eventually be isolated by checking thyroid hormone levels.