Women mainly suffer from thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism, but do thyroid problems cause hair loss?
This disorder also affects males and children of all ages.
What is the thyroid gland?
As you can see in the image it is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of your neck just below your Adam’s apple. It secretes two hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
What are the causes of thyroid disorders?
It is actually an auto-immune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the cells of the thyroid causing them to malfunction. The first disorder is hyperthyroidism which is caused by an over-active thyroid when too much thyroxine is produced while the other one is hypothyrodism or an under-active thyroid which does not secrete enough thyroxine. The thyroid glans use iodine to manufacture the thyroid hormones.
What are the symptoms of thyroid disorders?
- Hypothyroidism(under-active thyroid) can lead to issues from weight gain to fatigue and depression
- Hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid) causes weight loss, anxiety, tiredness, weight gain and depression. These are some symptoms and sometimes they do not appear. Pregnant mothers may experience a thyroid disorder known as post-partum thyroiditis which though temporary can appear each time they have a baby.
Both these hormones T4 and T3, secreted by the thyroid glands, are necessary for the metabolism of your body cells. If there is an over-secretion of the hormones your body cells work faster leading to a faster heart rate while a slowing down of the cells cause them and the organs of your body to slow down. Your heart rate may be slower than normal and this will have an impact on your intestines which cause either diarrhoea or constipation. Usually the tiny gland in your brain, the pituitary gland, regulates the secretion of these hormones and adjust their levels correctly.
If you experience the symptoms of thyroid disorder, you are advised to take a blood test. The doctor has to rule out other underlying causes such as the side effects of medication, hormonal imbalances which can happen during menopause, and nutritional deficiencies like the lack of iron or protein. A thyroid panel is a series of blood tests to help evaluate thyroid gland function and to help diagnose thyroid disorders. Thyroid disorders can be treated by taking medication on a daily basis but there may be other disorders that require other treatments.
What is the impact of thyroid disorders on your hair?
Patterns of hair loss
Thyroid problems do cause hair loss as both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism result in the thinning of your hair. The immune system attacks the hair follicles and disrupts the normal growth process. This results in smooth, circular bald patches appearing and this condition is called alopecia areata. It affects your hair quality and texture and may lead to significant hair loss unless it is treated .
For the victims of thyroid disorders, hair loss is not confined to the scalp alone but spreads to other areas such as the eyebrows. With hypothyroidism, your hair may become coarse and dry while those with hyperthyroidism have extra soft and fine hair.
The good news is that hair loss can be reversed through proper treatment after the hormonal balance of the thyroid is restored. But the bad news is that this treatment will take some time.
Hair loss may also be due to anti-thyroid drugs like carbimazole and propylthiouracil. But it has not been established whether the drug or your thyroid condition is causing your hair to thin .
There are other factors that cause thyroid disorders such as nutritional deficiency, hormonal imbalance, and side-effects of medication which I mentioned above.
Some factors that may cause hair loss
If you are suffering from thyroid disorders, you should avoid hair supplements that may contain iodine or interfere with levothyroxine absorption as the thyroid cells use iodine to manufacture the hormones T4 and T3. Certain iodine-rich foods such as seaweed and kelp could be dangerous as they may trigger either under-activity or over-activity of the thyroid. Iodine supplements should only be taken after consultation with your doctor.
Several natural remedies are available and may be used with your medication to promote hair growth. Learn more about these in the article about hypothyroidism treatment .
I mentioned earlier in my post about the nutritional deficiencies that can cause hair loss and your physician will have to rule this out before asking you to start your treatment for thyroid disorders .
Besides herbal remedies, you may try some essential oils, I listed in my earlier post here.