When your thyroid production drops, your body processes slow down and change. This slowdown of the thyroid may cause uncomfortable symptoms like cold intolerance, weight gain, tiredness, shortness of breath, constipation, dry skin, irregular menstrual cycles, fertility issues, depression, decreased heart rate, or thinning hair.
All of these symptoms are troubling to live with and interrupt our daily lives. One particularly concerning symptom that patients present with is hair thinning.
For many, hair is intrinsically bound in our identity. It can make us feel confident and empowered; it can even hold the weight of cultural significance. So, understandably, hair loss can be highly emotional as you feel at loss of identity or self-image.
Hair loss with hypothyroidism
The thyroid produces hormones our bodies needs for daily metabolism. So, when the thyroid doesn't function properly, it cannot supply the body with the proper hormones it needs to produce energy for all of its normal bodily functions.
All symptoms listed above, including hair thinning, relate to this decrease in overall energy when our thyroid doesn't work correctly. Subclinical (mild) hypothyroidism may cause mild to no symptoms at all, but the lower your thyroid hormone levels become, and the longer they stay that way, the more severe your symptoms will be.
Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to hair loss. Because the severity of symptoms can vary, it's possible not even to realize you're losing hair because it falls out so sparsely and uniformly. It may be three to four months after the onset of hypothyroidism before noticing hair loss due to the long hair cycle.
A blood test is the best way to know for sure if the cause of your hair loss is an underactive thyroid. Paloma Health offers an at-home thyroid test kit to help you understand how your thyroid is working. Test from the comfort of home and get results in about one week.
Circular hair loss patterns
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies attack the thyroid gland leading to chronic inflammation. Studies show that having one autoimmune disease makes you more likely to develop a second.
A common autoimmune disease that results in unpredictable hair loss is alopecia areata. However, the pattern of hair loss from alopecia areata appears differently from hypothyroidism hair loss. The hair falls out in circular patches instead of evenly throughout the hair. Treatment for alopecia areata is different from that of hypothyroidism. Consult your doctor if you think you may be experiencing alopecia.
Does thyroid medication cause hair loss?
No. Do not stop taking your medication. Some patients don't notice their hair thinning until after they begin their thyroid medication, leading them to believe that this is the cause of their hair loss. Discontinuing medication will worsen hair loss and may cause other dangerous problems.
Continue to take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Your hair should begin to grow back after starting medication. Give it at least six weeks to take effect.
Hair regrowth is usually successful with treatment, but there's a chance it may not return to how it was before disease diagnosis. Consult your doctor if you do not notice any improvement in symptoms after four to six weeks of taking thyroid medication.
It's essential to closely monitor your medication to find the optimal functioning of your thyroid. You made need adjustment in the dosing of your medication.
Tips for healthy hair while waiting for regrowth
- Eat a nutrient rich thyroid-friendly diet with foods like eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, seeds, and nuts.
- Integrate omega-3 fatty acids. Eat wild-caught fish or add flaxseeds to your smoothie or salads.
- Consider taking thyroid support supplements to maintain optimal nutrient status if you're not getting enough through diet.
- Use hot tools (curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers) sparingly. Heat-style rapidly dries out your hair.
- Brush gently with a soft bristle brush made from natural materials. Avoid fine-tooth combs or brushes as they can pull or damage strands.
- Wear your hair loose! Braiding can pull on already frail hair.
Be sure to ask your healthcare team (and maybe an experienced hairdresser) for further tips on minimizing hair loss and ways to feel your best while dealing with this discouraging symptom.
Paloma Health is an online medical practice focused exclusively on hypothyroidism. We treat only hypothyroid patients and can help with any hair loss issues.