Our hair is a pretty powerful indicator of our overall health. Hair loss is not simply a hereditary condition or a condition at all – it can be the symptom of a range of problems and the result of hormonal changes, poor diet and nutritional deficiencies, a variety of medications, surgery, and many medical conditions. When the body is in crisis, the hair cells can shut down to redirect energy elsewhere. One specific cause of severe hair loss is a thyroid condition.
The thyroid is an endocrine gland and responsible for producing hormones necessary for growth and proper metabolism. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the result of hormonal dysfunctions and are responsible for causing severe early onset of hair loss in both men and women of all ages, however, it is interesting to note that diseases related to the thyroid are more common in women than in men.
“Thyroid hormones are metabolised in all tissues in the body, including the hair follicle,” Dr. Elena Dimitrova at the Belgravia Centre said. “It essentially works to create energy that builds cells in the body.”
Hyperthyroidism is the result of an excessive amount of thyroid hormone in a person’s system. It occurs approximately eight to ten times more often in women than in men, with women in their twenties and thirties the most commonly affected.
“The production of more hormones, or energy, than is required is essentially wasted and can be harmful to the cells, resulting in thinning on top of the scalp,” Dr. Dimitrova said.
Hypothyroidism on the other hand is when not enough hormones are produced. Again, women develop hypothyroidism more frequently than men (15 in every thousand females compared to one in every thousand men), and it is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of thirty and sixty.
“With an underactive thyroid, people may experience a change in all body hair, diffuse thinning and the hair may become thin and brittle.”
Genetic male and female pattern hair loss occurs when dihydrotestosterone (DHT, a chemical derivative of testosterone) shrinks the hair follicles and eventually causes them to disappear completely. Because of their strong association with hormone function, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism encourage the conversion process of testosterone into DHT which accelerates hair loss in both men and women of all ages.
“Thyroid related hair loss does not make the roots disappear but they do get smaller,” Dr. Dimitrova said.
“Treatment for the thyroid condition will ultimately allow the hair to regrow naturally and gradually but sometimes minoxidil can be beneficial as a second-line treatment.
“Minoxidil is a blood circulator and hair growth stimulant so it will promote quick regrowth and minimise the damage the condition can cause to the hair.”
Hyperthyroidism is often accompanied by apathy, depression, weight loss, and irregular heart-beats whilst hypothyroidism is often characterized by lethargy, menstrual imbalance and decreased metabolism. Ask your GP for a blood test immediately if you suspect the condition and consult a trichologist early on for advice about hair loss.
If you’re feeling concerned, contact the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or email the centre to arrange a free consultation with a hair loss specialist. Early, monitored treatment can prevent severe hair loss from this condition.
(image courtesy of lepiaf.geo at flickr)