Does Diabetes cause Hair Loss? What can I do about it?

I'm type 2 and I've been having a low carb diet for the last 3 years, since I was diagnosed with diabetes. In the meantime I've been experiencing increased hair loss. Is there any connection between these two? Is it because of my medication? My doctor says it's not, but I don't know what to believe anymore.

belliza

F, 59, Vermont

Tags:woman age 55-64 balding hair loss diabetes medication

Diabetes usually doesn’t cause hair loss directly, but it can increase the risk in a number of different ways.

First, as you probably know, having Type 2 diabetes means that your body does not produce sufficient insulin or is unable to use its insulin efficiently. Insulin and other glucose-lowering medication help manage your blood sugar levels by transferring sugar from your bloodstream into your cells where it is converted into energy that is used or stored for later. If you have issues with your insulin and forget to take your medication, there’s a higher risk of excess sugar accumulating in your blood, which can potentially damage your organs as well as the small blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the hair follicles. As you might imagine, this can have a significant impact on your regular hair growth cycle and may contribute to hair loss.

Second, I think it’s worth noting that people with an autoimmune disorder such as diabetes are more susceptible to developing other problems with their immune system that may cause hair loss. For example, alopecia areata is a relatively common autoimmune disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your hair follicles and causes hair loss on hair-bearing skin that is otherwise healthy. If your doctor suspects you have alopecia areata, they may carry out a biopsy on the scalp to confirm the diagnosis.

Finally, there’s a well-documented link between stress and hair loss. Stress can cause a variety of problems that result in hair loss, including telogen effluvium, a condition in which your hair follicles are forced into a resting cycle, resulting in an unusually large number of hairs falling out. If you’ve been feeling chronically stressed due to health concerns or other factors in your life, it’s important to seek professional medical advice to find out what your best treatment options are.

Type 2 diabetes can certainly disrupt your regular hair growth cycle due to the way in which high blood sugar levels affect the blood vessels, which provide your hair follicles with the oxygen they need to thrive. You may also find that your thinning hair is the result of stress, which can trigger a few different conditions that may lead to hair loss. In addition, there are certain medications such as Metformin, a widely used Type 2 diabetes oral medication that reduces glucose levels, that are known to increase the risk of B12 deficiency. B12 plays a key role in forming red blood cells, which are critical for the growth of new hair. If you’ve been taking Metformin for a few years, it might be worth getting your blood work done and talking to your doctor about taking a B12 supplement if your tests reveal any deficiencies.

It’s important to remember that –- despite the coincidental timing -– your hair thinning may not have anything to do with diabetes. There are dozens of conditions that can trigger hair loss in women, including menopause, poor blood circulation, thyroid problems, anemia, polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal imbalances, and more. Hair loss can also be a natural process -– many women find that the hair on the top of their head starts to gradually thin out with age.

You have a few good options when it comes to treatment. Currently, Rogaine is the only topical medication that is FDA-approved for female pattern hair loss. It works by extending the growth phase of the hair growth cycle, so you will probably need to wait a few months to see results if you choose to go this route.

If the hair loss is severe, you might also consider a hair transplant. This procedure involves taking hair follicles from one part of the scalp and relocating them to another part where the hair is thinning. While there are some significant costs involved with this approach, the results are permanent and it can look great.

I am not aware of diabetes causing hair loss.  The stress of the diabetes definitely can, though.  I suggest you see a dermatologist who has experience with hair loss, as there may be other causes that you are not considering.

Hi-

  I am not aware of diabetes leading to hair loss. I recommend following up with your endocrinologist or PCP to further discuss your concerns and may be worth trying to adjust your medication. Good Luck.