How Thyroid Disease Affects Hair Loss

What to know if you experience this symptom
How Thyroid Disease Affects Hair Loss

When your thyroid production drops, your body processes slow down and change. This causes uncomfortable symptoms like cold intolerance, weight gain, tiredness, shortness of breath, constipation, dry skin, irregular menstrual cycles, fertility issues, depression, decreased heart rate, thinning hair, etc.

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 as loss of identity or self-image.

Here, we explore why this happens and what you can do about it.

Why does hair fall out 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 of the symptoms stated above, including hair thinning, are related to this decrease in overall energy when our thyroid is not working properly. 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 to not even 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 hair loss is discovered due to the long hair cycle.

The best way to know for sure if the cause of your hair loss is hypothyroidism is through blood tests. Paloma Health offers an at-home test kit that can help you understand how your thyroid is working. You can test wherever you are - even the comfort of your couch - and get results in about one week.

My hair is falling out in circular patches - could this be related to hypothyroidism?

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 if you are diagnosed with one autoimmune disease, you’re more likely to develop a second. This is called polyautoimmunity: the presence of more than one autoimmune disease in a single patient.

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 and you should consult your doctor if you think you may be experiencing this.

Is thyroid medication to blame for hair loss?

Because some patients don’t notice their hair thinning until after they begin their thyroid medication, they may think that this is the cause of their hair loss. False. Don’t stop taking your medication! This will actually worsen hair loss and can cause other dangerous problems. The best thing to do is to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Your hair should begin to grow back after starting medication, but 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. If you have been taking thyroid medication for a couple of months and have not noticed any improvement in your hair, consult your doctor. You made need adjustment in the dosing of your medication.

Unfortunately, hair loss can occur in both hypo- and hyperthyroidism, so it’s important to closely monitor your medication to find the optimal functioning of your thyroid.

Six weeks seems like a long time to wait for hair regrowth. What can I do in the meantime?

  • Consider taking vitamins and supplements, such as vitamins A and C, B-vitamins, biotin, niacin, iron and zinc to help with hair growth. These are not a one size fits all, so just because they work for one person does not mean the same vitamin or nutrient will work for you. If you chose to take these, consult your doctor, and be sure to take them four hours after your thyroid medication to avoid negative interaction.

  • 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.

  • Some patients have even found comfort in covering up hair loss with wigs and hair extensions.

Be sure to ask your Care Team (and maybe your experienced hairdresser) for further tips on minimizing hair loss and ways to feel your best while dealing with this tough symptom!

Is Paloma Right For Me?

Hypothyroidism is a long-term commitment and we’re committed to you. Schedule a free, no-obligation phone consultation with one of our intake specialists to find out more.

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