Diabetes and Hair Loss: What’s the Connection?

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Hair loss is an extremely common condition that affects a huge portion of the world to varying degrees. However, the fact is that some people are more susceptible to hair loss than others for a variety of reasons.

Many men and women have a genetic predisposition to pattern baldness, meaning that they notice thinning hair and, for many, eventual baldness in a few distinct places. For men, pattern baldness manifests itself in hair loss at the crown of the head and temples. For women, pattern baldness typically affects the hair part but can also cause thinning throughout the head. Some people experience hair loss due to high levels of stress or even as a side effect of medication.

Though there are so many different potential causes of hair loss, one of the most affected groups is those with diabetes. Diabetes is a common condition that is classified into two types, both having to do with the improper production of insulin in the body. Though you may think that diabetes itself could be a cause of hair loss, there are several different aspects of diabetes that can independently lead to hair loss, and oftentimes these factors team up to increase a patient’s likelihood.

Want to learn more about the connection between diabetes and hair loss? Here are a few diabetes-related causes of hair loss and some details behind them:

Diabetes can cause alopecia areata. Those with pattern baldness or a history of pattern baldness in their family, either male or female, are most likely familiar with the term “androgenetic alopecia.” This is the scientific term for genetic hair loss, and it affects a large portion of the world today.

Though androgenetic alopecia is one of the most common types of alopecia, there is another type that affects a smaller percentage of people but can still be devastating, if not even more so—alopecia areata. While those suffering from androgenetic alopecia only notice hair loss from their head, those with alopecia areata often experience hair loss all over their body in addition to their head.

Alopecia areata is a condition in which your body’s immune system attacks your hair follicles from the inside, causing you to lose hair all over. Though alopecia areata is not a direct symptom of diabetes, those with diabetes are known to be more susceptible to developing this condition. Unlike androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata will sometimes reverse itself, leading hair to grow back, although it may appear patchier and more inconsistent than the hair was before.

High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can cause hair loss. Those suffering from diabetes often deal with extreme blood sugar spikes. Consistently high levels of blood sugar over time can damage many of your body’s organs, including the blood vessels that help to transport your blood throughout your body.

Your body contains millions of blood vessels, and many of those have to do with circulating blood flow to your scalp and hair follicles. When your blood vessels become damaged or eroded over time due to high blood sugar levels, this can affect the amount of oxygen being transported to your hair follicles, thus interrupting your hair’s natural growth cycle and slowing down growth or even causing excess hair shedding.

Diabetes-related thyroid conditions can result in hair loss. Among the many medical conditions that can cause hair thinning and hair loss, chronic thyroid conditions like hypo- and hyperthyroidism are one of the most prevalent. Because your thyroid controls your hormones, any thyroid illness will send your hormones out of balance, which is one of the most common root causes of hair loss.

People with diabetes have an increased likelihood of developing a thyroid disorder. Generally, thyroid-related hair loss can reverse itself once the condition is stabilized with medication, but the return to a normal hair growth cycle takes time and patients often won’t notice new hair growth for several months.

Diabetes and Hair Loss: What to Do

If you’re experiencing hair loss that you suspect may be related to your diabetes, talking to your doctor is the first step to take. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes but think you may have developed the condition, a conversation with your primary care provider is even more advisable.

Once you figure out exactly what is causing your hair loss, you may want to try some hair growth methods such as laser hair caps or DHT blocking products—with your doctor’s OK, of course. Laser hair caps use state-of-the-art low-level light therapy in order to stimulate hair growth and slow hair loss, all at only 30 minutes of wear every other day.