Thanks to social media and the information sharing opportunities that it represents, it can sometimes seem that people with hair loss are one step ahead of the professionals. And the internet is currently awash with rumours that a condition known as peripheral neuropathy can lead to thinning hair and baldness.
Peripheral neuropathy is one of those conditions that sometimes goes undiagnosed as symptoms often begin quite subtly. They include numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, muscle weakness (in the feet especially) and also a loss of balance/co-ordination.
But the condition can lead to quite serious complications, and is caused when nerves in the body’s extremities (the hands and feet as opposed to the central nervous system) become damaged. The NHS reports that around 1 in 10 people aged 55 or older are affected, though it can also present in younger adults.
Frequently caused by diabetes
One possible reason that peripheral neuropathy is being linked to hair loss is that it is frequently caused by diabetes; in fact, diabetes is its most common cause.
Diabetes can lead to hair loss because it plays havoc with the body and the hair growth cycle can suffer as a result. One explanation for this is that diabetes affects the circulatory system and can lead to poor circulation, which leads to a deficit of nutrients in the hair follicles.
Another condition which can lead to peripheral neuropathy is shingles. Hair thinning in this case can be explained by drugs that are taken to deal with the illness or, indeed, the illness itself: many illnesses can cause hair loss as a side effect. This is because – as with diabetes – the body is sensitive to change and hair growth can suffer during such periods of biological stress. Thyroid conditions – something else that can lead to excessive shedding – have been linked to peripheral neuropathy, too.
The usual diagnosis for hair loss caused by illness and/or medication is Telogen Effluvium, a general all-over thinning that is far from uncommon. It tends to present around three months after being triggered and in many cases hair will start to regrow once the body has recovered from the initial “shock” that has so upset the equilibrium – be that the illness itself or the treatment that was taken to deal with it. This usually takes no longer than six months although telogen effluvium treatment can help to accelerate this process.
Hair loss as a result of thyroid conditions, however, can be slightly different: a thyroid condition can cause a spike in a testosterone by-product named DHT which can lead to androgenetic alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness or Female Pattern Hair Loss) in people with a predisposed sensitivity to it. These hereditary conditions can also be sparked as a result of Telogen Effluvium though, again, only in those who already carry the balding gene.
Additionally, peripheral neuropathy has been linked to certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. While it has not – to our knowledge – been specifically linked to Alopecia Areata, the autoimmune disorder that leads to sudden, patchy hair loss, the possibility of a correlation between the two exists.
Hair loss caused by changes in the body
In summing up, what seems unlikely is that hair loss is a symptom of peripheral neuropathy per se; rather it is the result of significant changes in the body that have been caused by the illnesses and ailments that lead to peripheral neuropathy, or the medicines designed to treat them.
It is a reminder, yet again, of just how interlinked the parts of the body so frequently are and how whole-body health can play such an important role in a healthy head of hair. However, if you are starting to see signs of hair loss and are looking for a medical complaint to match it to, you could be on something of a fool’s errand. A visit to a specialist hair loss clinic will just as often reveal that genetics or plain old bad luck are the cause.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.