Thyroid and Hair Loss, What You Need to Know

Posted by Sasha Kaleigh on May 31, 2017 9:00:00 AM

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Hair loss can be a stressful experience for anyone. With your hair falling out, thinning or breaking, even the most confident person can become shaky and downright panicky. But whether it is stress, an underlying health condition, or just the genes you were dealt, you need to identify the cause of your hair loss. If you suffer from thyroid disorders, there is now enough scientific evidence to show that your thyroid impacts your hair. This happens because the thyroid gland is responsible for releasing thyroid hormones that influence many bodily functions including healthy hair growth.

Thyroid and Hair

Today’s blog is an attempt to take a look at thyroid disease, some of its symptoms and how it can affect your hair. Knowing what triggers thyroid and hair thinning can help you better identify the right solutions for this problem. Plus, you can also get some insight into what works and what doesn’t when dealing with the condition. 

What Is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland positioned in the front of the lower neck. It lies below the Adam’s apple along the front of the windpipe. The gland is composed of two lobes with each lobe performing the same function. It is responsible for producing various hormones that are released in to the bloodstream. These hormones perform a myriad of bodily functions including regulating energy levels and reproduction of cells. 

Types of Thyroid Disease

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism results from an underactive thyroid. In this condition, the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones which can reduce the activity and ability of the body to regenerate cells. A hypothyroid upsets the normal balance of chemical reactions in the body and can, over time, cause a number of different health problems. Two considerations when diagnosing hypothyroidism are low ferritin levels and nutritional deficiencies. Ferritin is the stored form of iron in the body and needs to be evaluated. Nutritional deficiencies are another factor in hypothyroidism. Not only are nutrients vital for proper thyroid function, they also have an important role in preventing hair loss.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism results in the overproduction of the thyroid hormones. This can cause an acceleration in the body’s metabolism and bring about sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating, and nervousness or irritability. In other words, too much thyroid hormone can cause almost every function of the body to speed up. A diagnosis of a hyperthyroid can sometimes be difficult since its symptoms can be generic. Symptoms may mimic other health problems and appear to be associated with a number of other conditions. A diagnosis can be confirmed by laboratory tests which measure the volume of thyroid hormones. 

Thyroiditis

Another condition linked to the thyroid gland is known as thyroiditis where there is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This could be the result of an antibody attack on the thyroid causing it to inflame and damage thyroid cells. Thyroiditis may also be triggered by viral or bacterial infections. In this case the pathogens work in the same way as antibodies and cause inflammation in the gland.  A third cause of glandular inflammation could be the use of certain drugs such as interferon or amiodarone.

Goiter

An unnatural enlargement of the thyroid gland is referred to as goiter. However, having a goiter does not indicate that the gland itself is malfunctioning. On the contrary, goiter can occur in a gland that produces too much hormone, too little hormone or even in one that produces an accurate amount of hormone. It just points out a condition where the thyroid gland has developed abnormally. Even though goiters are usually painless, they can sometimes bring on a cough and make it difficult for you to swallow or breathe.

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer happens when abnormal cells start to grow in the thyroid gland. It is typically an uncommon kind of cancer which is often detected early, making diagnosis and treatment easy to conduct. Common symptoms of thyroid cancer can include a lump or swelling in the neck. You may also experience some pain in your neck or have trouble swallowing. In some instances, your voice may become hoarse or you may develop a frequent cough, not quite related to a cold. The cancer may, however, recur in some cases.

Symptoms of Thyroid Disease

There are a number of symptoms that accompany thyroid diseases including changes in weight, insomnia, abnormal menstruation, changes in heart rate and energy, and temperature fluctuations. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and Hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) are particularly influential in these changes of the body. On top of all that, these diseases can have a damaging impact on hair health. Thyroid hormones can directly target human hair follicles making hair growth dependent on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.  If the condition is mild, then the way the thyroid impacts your hair will be minimal, perhaps not even noticeable. However, severe or prolonged cases of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can both trigger substantial hair loss. 

How your thyroid impacts your hair

Some forms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can come on suddenly. It is not always possible to diagnose the condition early on and some people may suffer from the condition for many months or even years before a diagnosis is made. As a result, thyroid hair loss may only become apparent several months after the onset of the disease itself.

Some of the ways in which thyroid disease can impact your hair includes the following:

Thyroid with itchy scalp and brittle hair

An itchy scalp is often a common indication of head dandruff. In more severe cases, it could also present the possibility of a bacterial infection or even ringworm. But did you know that thyroid disorder can also cause an itchy scalp?

You may experience an itchy dry scalp, and brittle hair when your thyroid does not work properly. Another indication that your thyroid is performing at suboptimal levels is that the texture of your hair starts to change as well. You may notice that your otherwise healthy set of hair suddenly becomes limp, fine and dry. This is when hair strands lose their strength and become fine and weak. With hyperthyroidism you may experience hair thinning all over the scalp. Women suffering from hypothyroidism may see more extreme hair loss, not just on the scalp but elsewhere on the body as well.  Any kind of inflammation on the scalp can trigger a number of scalp disorders such as thinning hair, dandruff, scalp dryness and skin sensitivity.

To treat an itchy, dry scalp or brittle hair, you can try incorporating a topical hair serum to your hair care routine. Choose a product that includes aminexil in it. This is a chemical molecule which prevents perifollicular fibrosis or scarring of the hair follicles. Aminexil for hair growth is used to restore hair on the vertex of the scalp. It works by increasing blood circulation to the hair follicles and so promotes hair growth. To bring relief to your itchy dry scalp, try a product that can relieve scalp itching and dryness. These features will help eliminate irritation and flaking associated with an itchy scalp.

Hair loss

The human scalp hair does not grow continuously. Instead every individual follicle goes through different phases of growth. There are specific times when the hair lengthens and then others when it rests and sheds. This normal hair shedding is replaced by new hairs.

However, human hairs do not all shed at the same time. Instead, different hair follicles are at different stages of growth at any given time. This feature makes it normal to have some ongoing hair loss at all times. But if the thyroid starts to malfunction, then hair loss may become more severe and noticeable. The resulting hormonal imbalances may cause a greater number of hair follicles to go into their resting phase and halt hair growth temporarily. Plus, hair loss caused by thyroid disease is not localized but involves the entire scalp instead. In this case, hormonally induced hair loss happens when certain hormones attack hair follicles and then shrink them. In extreme cases the follicles may even disappear entirely. This makes the hair strands thinner initially and then may stop them from growing entirely. In fact, for some people, rapid hair loss may be the worst symptom of their thinning hair. 

With successful treatment of the disease, you can get your hair to grow back. However, regrowth may take several months and may be somewhat incomplete. In the meantime, you can try using a revitalizing shampoo that can help preserve your hair and keep it from falling. You can choose a product that is designed for an irritated scalp and comes with potent ingredients such as minerals, essential oils and vitamins good for the scalp. 

If you are concerned about how thyroid impacts your hair and worried about the amount of hair you are losing, make sure to get evaluated by a dermatologist.  If you are taking medication to treat your disorder, let your doctor know. Hair loss may also result from being undertreated or not taking the right medicine. In this case find out if you need to revisit your medication options, or you can consider an alternative treatment.

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