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‘Hair Loss and Tangling After Treating Iron Deficiency Anaemia’

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Name: Asu

Iron tablets - anaemia - iron levels - nutrition - anemiaQuestion: Hello, I am a 24 year old female, I was on iron capsules in the previous 3 months for treating iron deficiency anemia. After 2 months of iron intake my hair starts falling in a progressive manner and becomes incredibly knotted when wet, it takes me about an hour to brush it after a shower! (previously it’d take only 10 min). I stopped the iron tablets but the tangling and falling is progressively deteriorating.

The same condition had occurred to me 3 years ago after 2 months of taking iron for iron deficiency anemia but I didn’t stop iron tablets that time and had continued 6 months of iron intake. My hair was falling and tangling when wet for several months then stopped but my hair texture was changed since that to become rough and curly.

Now the condition is repeated again so I’m wondering what is the possible cause of it (especially the tangling in shower)? Knowing that I was taking 2 capsules/day in the first month then 1 capsule/day in the 2nd and 3rd months (iron in one capsule=100mg and it’s written in the drug packet that overdose occurs when taking 20 mg/Kg and I’m 50 kg so I’m at safe dose!) – (tangling doesn’t resolve by combing before shower,or during shower,or by conditioners!)

Answer: Hi, Asu. Hair loss and tangling can happen for many reasons and these are not necessarily due to your iron supplements. You should certainly follow your doctor’s advice regarding your iron intake as iron-deficiency anaemia can have a serious impact on your health and hair if left untreated.

Hair Cuticle Health - Damaged hair v healthy hair diagramYou describe your hair texture as being rough now. Usually this is because the hair cuticle – the outermost layer – has been damaged. This can happen when the hair is dry, brittle, over-processed and/or porous, and makes it easy for individual hair strands to tangle. Additionally, when your hair is wet the cuticle scales lift up, causing the hair to tangle further.

The hair’s condition can deteriorate from simple things such as every day styling methods, particularly heat styling or chemical treatments such as perms, bleaching or the use of relaxers. This can make it more prone to tangling. Additionally, dietary deficiencies, including iron deficiency, can also worsen the hair’s condition, making it more likely to tangle or break.

You can try applying conditioner then gently combing your hair with a wide-tooth comb or specific detangling brush, such as a Tangle Teezer. If your hair is porous, using a conditioner will not repair the cuticle layer, but it can help to seal the cuticle scales to the hair shaft so there is less tangling while healthier hair grows through.

Assuming iron-deficiency anaemia is the only factor negatively affecting your hair, this should improve as your iron levels do. Iron deficiency anaemia can cause changes in the hair growth cycle – which, in turn, can result in a temporary hair loss condition called Telogen Effluvium. Now that your iron levels are improving, it is possible that new hair is being encouraged to grow and this may be pushing out the old hairs that were in the resting phase (Telogen stage) of this process. This would explain the shedding and is hopefully a good sign that healthier hair is on its way.

Please do bear in mind that if you have Female Pattern Hair Loss, iron deficiency anaemia can aggravate this, so if you have any concerns about thinning hair or hair loss, it is advisable to consult with a specialist. This can be done either in person at a hair loss clinic, or online, and once a hair specialist has taken details of your symptoms, medical profile and assessed your scalp – you can upload photos if using the online consultation form – they will provide you with a professional diagnosis and recommendations for hair loss treatment, where appropriate.


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