The thyroid gland is responsible for the regulation of hormones throughout the body. When there is an imbalance in the thyroid gland, it may cause a variety of problems and conditions related to the increase or reduction of the release of hormones, including hair loss.
When there is a thyroid imbalance such as hypothyroidism, a person is not able to produce enough androgens in his body and may suffer from alopeica, also known as pattern hair loss. According to WebMD, hair loss in women is often caused by the overproduction of androgens that produce dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes the hair follicle to shrink and then fall out. This type of hair loss is directly linked to thyroid imbalances.
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day. Hair goes through resting and growing phases and it tends to fall out more during the resting phase (Telogen) and not so much during the growing phase (Anagen). The stage in between these phases, called Catagen, covers about a two-week period and involves the hair follicle shrinking so it can escape the scalp in the Telogen phase. When these phases are disrupted because of follicle damage or abnormal follicle thinning associated with effluvium, it results in abnormal hair loss.
Abnormal Hair Loss
If you are losing hair in clumps, it may be a sign or acute telogen effluvium, which is the term used to describe hair loss associated with suddenly losing large amounts of hair at one time. Another sign of abnormal hair loss that is not associated with breakage is when the hair that has fallen out still has an attached follicle. Thyroid problems may cause both sudden thinning and gradual thinning. Dry, brittle hair is also a symptom of a thyroid condition.
When the thyroid produces too much of the T4 and T3 hormones, it results in a condition called hyperthyroidism. The most common cause is Graves disease. People who suffer from hyperthyroidism have a host of symptoms, including excessive sweating, appetite increase and trouble sleeping. Because of the increase in metabolism, the body temperature tends to run hotter as well. In addition, increased hair loss is one of the symptoms of this endocrine disorder.
The cause of hypothyroidism is usually Hashimotos thyroiditis. According to WebMD, this condition causes the immune system to attack thyroid tissue and prevent the thyroid gland from producing the amount the body needs to function properly. Fatigue, memory problems, heavy menstruation and dry skin are often symptoms of this disorder. In addition, dry hair and hair loss are also symptoms that the thyroid is overproducing hormones in the body.
For hypothyroid, a treatment that is much prescribed and effective is levothyroxine. This is a replacement for the missing T4 hormone that is essential to optimal thyroid functioning. It is often called Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid and Levothroid. It is also available in generic forms. This medication can be dangerous for individuals with a history of heart problems, diabetes or blood clots. Side effects include sleeplessness, weight gain, sweating and nervousness. In addition, there is an association between hair loss and the drug Syntheroid. Some thyroid drugs can contribute to hair loss. If you are taking any drugs for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, and notice the hair loss symptoms increasing, talk to your doctor about dosage and alternative medications. Hair loss is more likely when no medication is administered, so taking medication to alleviate the more serious symptoms of thyroid malfunction is recommended by doctors.
The most common hyperthyroid drugs, according to merck.com, are propylthiruracil (PTU) and methimazole. The drugs work to prevent the thyroid from overproducing the hormones that contribute to Graves disease. Side effects can include nausea, hives, heartburn, headache, rash and hair loss. On average, only three out of 100 patients who take these drugs suffer side effects.
Hair loss has also been attributed to a deficiency in the amino acid lysine, which helps to balance metabolic processes. Eating foods higher in lysine, such as eggs, fish and meat, will contribute to regulating the metabolism. In addition, using products such as Propecia or Rogaine may aid in the regrowth of hair that is lost due to thyroid malfunctions. Propecia is a pill that requires a prescription, and Rogaine is a topical ointment that is sold over the counter. Finally, taking a hair vitamin that contains biotin will help to produce the necessary proteins for optimal hair growth. These measure should be taken in tandem with drug treatments for thyroid regulation.