Iron deficiency anaemia is a common condition which occurs when the body is lacking iron, which leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells. Because iron is used by the body to create red blood cells, which carry and store oxygen in the blood, lack of iron may mean that tissues and organs become oxygen deficient. Other types of anaemia exist too, including a type caused by lack of vitamin B12, and the symptoms can include hair loss.
Whilst iron deficiency anaemia most commonly affects women of child-bearing age, pregnant women or those with heavy periods, men can also be affected. Iron deficiency often goes undetected in men for longer periods of time, as the hair loss experienced can be mistaken for male pattern hair loss. Symptoms of anaemia can include:
Diagnosis is through a simple blood test, and iron supplements are usually prescribed to return iron levels to normal. Increasing natural sources of iron in the diet can help too good sources include red meat, eggs, brown rice, fish and dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach).
Left untreated, iron deficiency can lower your immune system, leaving you more prone to illness, and in severe cases it could increase the risk of conditions such as heart failure or tachycardia (fast heartbeat). If you are experiencing noticeable hair loss, anaemia may be the cause. Rather than the patchy hair loss associated with conditions such as Alopecia Areata, women or men with iron deficiency anaemia may notice overall thinning of the hair over a longer period of time. Hair may also feel straw-like, brittle and dry, and may snap when being washed or brushed.
Addressing your diet and lifestyle can help, and hair loss caused by anaemia is usually temporary; hair should grow back once the body’s levels of iron return to a normal range. It’s a good idea to visit a hair loss specialist if you are concerned about hair loss, as they can check there are no other underlying issues responsible for the shedding, such as Telogen Effluvium or Diffuse Hair Loss (both often brought on by stress) or a thyroid condition, which can cause symptoms similar to iron deficiency anaemia. They can also recommend a personalised treatment programme to help promote natural hair re-growth.
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