Thyroid and Hair Loss: What You Need to Know about Thyroid Hair Loss in 2018
Hair loss is a common issue that people of all walks of life can experience. There are a wide variety of reasons why someone may experience hair loss that can span from lifestyle choices to genetics. Hair loss can impact self-esteem,and many people want to stop or reverse hair loss from happening. One reason behind hair loss is connected to the thyroid.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that is a part of the endocrine system. This system is also home to the pituitary gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, testicles in men, pancreas, and ovaries in women. The role of the endocrine system is to regulate hormones the glands produce and secrete. All glands work to regulate growth, metabolism, and healthy function of the sex organs.
The thyroid is a small (about two inches), butterfly-shaped gland that is located below the voice box in the throat. The thyroid controls every cell in the body by producing T4 and T3 (thyroxine and triiodothyronine), two hormones that regulate the pace at which cells and organs produce energy from nutrients and how much oxygen the cells need. In conjunction with other glands, it works to regulate the function of the brain and nerves, heart, skin, eyes, intestines, and hair.
Abnormal Thyroid Function
The thyroid can become imbalanced and either overproduce hormones or not produce enough. There are many conditions and reasons behind why the thyroid may become imbalanced, leading to symptoms such as hair loss. Some of these reasons include:
Hyperthyroidism: this is a condition where the thyroid produces too much of the hormone T4, thyroxine. This causes the metabolic rate to increase significantly and cause sudden weight loss, mood changes, irregular heartbeat, sweating, and if left untreated it can cause hair loss. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a number ofconditions such as Graves’ disease, toxic adenoma, Plummer’s disease, toxic multinodular goiter, thyroiditis, and too much iodine in the diet.
Hypothyroidism: this occurs when the thyroid is underactive and is not producing enough hormones to regulate the body’s systems. When the thyroid is not producing enough, it can cause several functions to decrease or halt altogether. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include thinning hair, puffy face, unexplained weight gain, high cholesterol, fatigue, muscle aches, slow heart rate, and impaired memory. The most common causes of hypothyroidism areHashimoto’s thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid caused by the immune system), a genetic defect, surgery, certain medications, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.
Nodules or lumps: nodules on the thyroid can cause hormone imbalances in some cases. These nodules can either be solid or filled with fluid. Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms and require no treatment, but sometimes they can affect health by causing hyperthyroidism. Nodules and lumps should be checked by a doctor to ensure they are benign and that there is no cancer. In rare cases, there may be some symptoms of nodules such as pain in the neck, jaw, or ear.
Hair Loss Caused by a Thyroid Imbalance
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism affect hair differently. These conditions will affect hair if severe and left untreated over a long period of time. Hyperthyroidism causes hair to become fine all over the scalp and appear thinner. Hypothyroidism can cause hair all over the body to become dry and brittle, resulting in hair loss. How does this happen?
Hair grows starting at the root which is located at the bottom of the hair follicle below the scalp. The blood vessels in the scalp nourish the root which causes the hair to grow. When it breaks the surface of the scalp, it is pushing through oil glands that help keep the hair shiny and soft. The hair will grow until it falls out at the end of the hair cycle and begins to grow a new one.
When the production of T4 and T3 changes and affects the hair, it starts by disrupting the development of the hair at the root. Once the hair falls out it will be replaced with a thinner strand and then progress to not grow in at all if left untreated. This includes eyebrows and other areas of the body.
Since the process of losing hair is slow with thyroid issues, the first sign is hair feeling thinner overall. As mentioned previously, hair will only fall out in severe and prolonged cases. Luckily, hair loss caused by the thyroid is usually temporary and can be reversed or kept under control with treatment.
It is important to consult your doctor before starting any method of treatment and to ensure the problem is caused by the thyroid and why. Testing for thyroid issues involves a blood test to check for multiple hormone levels. Hair loss caused by the thyroid requires the thyroid to be treatedin order to fix the hormonal imbalance.
A method of treatment for hypothyroidism to take a hormone replacement in the form of a pill. This steps in for the missing hormones to balance levels and regulate the system. Hyperthyroidism is commonly treated with radioactive iodine. This causes the thyroid to be destroyed over time. The hormones are then replaced with hormone replacement pills.
Another method for treating hyperthyroidism is with antithyroid medication. Common medication such as propylthiouracil and methimazole work to prevent the thyroid from over-producing the T4 and T3 hormones. If the antithyroid medication does not work, then the doctor may recommend removal of the thyroid, and this will result in taking hormone replacement pills for the rest of your life.
Some people may want to treat the hair loss directly before the thyroid is regulated by the prescribed medication. In this case, minoxidil (Rogaine) may be prescribedto stimulate new hair growth.
Minoxidil is a common hair loss solution for those will thinning hair and minor hair loss. Since hair loss caused by the thyroid is primarily temporary, any of the treatments for your specific issue will surely help regrow a head full of hair.