Thyroid Hair Loss Help

With Amy Myers MD

How to stop hair loss due to thyroid problems

How to reverse hair loss thyroid disease

When your hair grows, it starts at the scalp and comes from a hair follicle. Your blood circulation nourishes the cells in your scalp, causing your hair to grow, which is why you may have heard of using scalp massages to stimulate circulation. Hair growth is a cycle. It falls out and regrows, even if you don’t notice it happening.

According to a review published in Molecular Biology of the Cell, thyroid disorders caused by disrupted T3 and T4 hormones can cause hair loss, especially in untreated or extreme conditions. Unfortunately, the review found, hair loss (as well as breaking or thinning hair) is found in both hypo- and hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid conditions stem from an inactive or underactive thyroid gland (known as hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Your pituitary gland is also responsible in some cases of hypothyroidism due to its failure to make a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which triggers thyroid hormone release. The all-important hormones T3 and T4 — which regulate dozens of bodily processes, including regrowth, are affected in thyroid conditions.

What does thyroid hair loss look like?

We all lose some hair daily, and then it regrows. But irregular functioning of T3 and T4 can cause that regrowth cycle to be disturbed — meaning you might notice thinning hair over time, without hair replacement. This could affect your eyebrows, body hair, and eyelashes, too. It might fall out in clumps or strands. And it might not be from just one area, either, so it may not be noticeable at first.

You may also be seeing a lot of hair coming out in the shower or as you brush it — more than 100 strands per day is a sign of significant hair loss.

Thyroid conditions are seen in people with alopecia, which causes patchy hair loss. Lupus and PCOS may cause hair loss as well. In a study cited in the International Journal of Trichology, advanced age is also associated with more thyroid hair loss.

In fact, as a good rule of thumb, if you have alopecia or hair loss of any sort, but have no known thyroid disorder, it's wise to check with your doctor and to request a thyroid test at the first sign of hair loss.

How to stop hair loss due to thyroid conditions

Many people worry that all of their hair will fall out, but the truth is that hair loss caused by thyroid disorders is usually temporary and can be reversed, especially if you work with your endocrinologist to get tested and on the right treatment for your condition. Using thyroid medications to rebalance your hormones may help replace the lost hair, even though it could take some time before you see new growth.

According to Amy Myers MD, you’re going to want to ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel to check your TSH, free T4, free T3, and reverse T3.

These levels should be optimal, not just “normal.” The difference? Normal results — especially with TSH and T4 — could still cause issues like hair loss. You’ll then want to work with your doctor to find the right kind and dosage of thyroid medication for your specific thyroid hormone imbalance. Your endocrinologist will help you arrive at the right treatment for your symptoms.

Be sure to see a specialist who understands the nuances of thyroid conditions. It’s important that you keep track of your symptoms, note how long you’ve been taking your medication, get regular thyroid checkups, and advocate for yourself at your doctor’s appointments. Ask about every possible treatment option and all the combinations that might work for you, especially if hair loss continues well after medical treatment.

How to stop hormonal hair loss

Stress management and nutrition can play a key role in hair health, too.

  1. Check and boost your iron intake. Low iron causes low ferritin, a blood protein associated with hair growth. Thyroid issues also cause low ferritin, which means you’ll want to get your ferritin and iron levels checked at the same time as your thyroid. 
  2. Make sure you are getting enough protein, as protein is a building block for hair. 
  3. Try a multivitamin with biotin. A, C, E, and B vitamins, zinc, copper, and CoQ10 can also contribute to hair health. Biotin, part of the B vitamin family, is an absolute essential — and you can find “hair, skin, and nails” biotin supplements pretty much everywhere. One thing to remember: Be sure you’re buying from a reputable vitamin company that offers “pharmaceutical-grade” or “professional-grade” vitamins, since they’re safer and more effective.
  4. Watch your daily stress levels. Too much stress leads to cortisol overload. Our hormones are delicately balanced — and chronic stress can lead to a tipping point that throws everything out of whack, including your hair.

If you are using thyroid medication but are chronically stressed, you might be doing yourself a disservice in the long term. According to Jen Mayo, Integrative Health Coach, stress hormones play a big part in hair loss and in overall hormonal imbalances. “Stress gets stuck in the body — creating an ‘always-on’ stress response. This can cause physical problems unless the trauma and stress are addressed, and therapies to treat the symptoms will do just that.”

Mayo recommends that patients use a diurnal salivary cortisol test, “which can reveal high or low cortisol; both of which can cause hair loss.” In addition to therapy, daily meditation, journaling, yoga, or other stress relieving actions such as exercising outdoors can also be helpful in reducing cortisol levels.

What are other causes of hair loss?

Be sure to raise any hair loss concerns or questions with your doctor, and to look into your family history as well, as it may provide clues and a path toward a solution. Hair loss can also be caused by:

  • Inherited male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Age, especially after 50
  • Hair damage from overstyling or products
  • Fungal issues, like ringworm
  • Too little protein or iron in the diet
  • Trauma to the body (as in surgery or injury)
  • Chronic stress
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Weight loss

Your endocrine system is complex and tied into a wide array of health issues, which is why you should be speaking to your endocrinologist if you do experience any possible symptoms of thyroid disorders, including not being able to lose weight, extreme fatigue, an enlarged thyroid gland, and hair loss.

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