Living with diabetes is stressful enough. It can cause a range of symptoms and health issues. Many people with this condition are often forewarned to look after their eyes, fingers, and toes. But what about their hair?
The link between diabetes and hair loss is rarely discussed despite it being a common issue. What most people do not like to admit is the embarrassment or shame of losing one’s hair. More than vanity, the hairs on one’s head play a vital role in one’s feelings of beauty, femininity, masculinity, and confidence. Here, we tackle their connection and ways to prevent hair loss.
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Maddie on hair loss and type 1 diabetes (Courtesy of Maddie Nielsen)
An Overview of Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease wherein the body does not produce or does not properly utilize insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for moving blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) from the food one eats into the cells to store or use as energy.
The lack of or inefficient use of insulin causes one’s blood glucose levels to go way above normal. This excess sugar can wreak havoc on all the organs, even one’s eyes, nerves, and kidneys. It can even lead to heart disease, stroke, or in severe cases, amputation.
The link between diabetes and hair loss lies in one’s blood vessels. Blood vessels function to carry oxygen around the body to nourish organs and tissues. When diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels, there would not be enough oxygen to support the hair follicles. This can then result in hair loss.
How Diabetes Affects Hair Loss
The hair follows a growth cycle that involves growth (anagen), transition (catagen), rest (telogen), and shedding (exogen). On average, hair grows at a rate of 1 to 2 centimeters every month. It then goes into a resting phase for about 100 days. Some of these hair on rest fall out shortly after.
Having diabetes disrupts this growth cycle. The hair regrowth becomes slower and more hairs are shed. Those with the disease could also lose hairs on their arms, legs, and other body parts.
Other factors may cause a person with diabetes to lose hair. These include:
Hormones and Stress
Living with a chronic illness can put a great deal of stress, both physical and emotional, on a person’s body. Persistent stress can directly impact the hair growth cycle as these fluctuating hormone levels affect the regeneration process of hair follicles.
Alopecia Areata is a condition wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles. People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop this autoimmune disease. Those with Alopecia Areata experience hair loss in small patches around the size of a quarter. Some even have a complete loss of hair on the scalp (alopecia totalis) or the entire body (alopecia universalis).
Those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have greater risks of developing hypo- or hyperthyroid disease. Especially for those with type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease that can cause significant hair loss.
There are many conditions associated with diabetes. These include coeliac disease, thyroid disease, and hemochromatosis. The medicines taken to treat diabetes and/or other conditions such as certain antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs, epilepsy drugs, thyroid medication, mood stabilizers and antidepressants, anticoagulants, and others may cause hair thinning or hair loss.
The Link Between Metformin and Hair Loss
As mentioned above, some medications are used to treat diabetes or another associated condition that could be causing hair loss. These also interfere with the hair’s natural growth cycle, which leads to less hair produced or hair thinning.
Metformin is a common drug used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. It is also prescribed to treat those suffering from PCOS (another condition where hair thinning is a common symptom). This drug functions to lower the amount of sugar produced in the liver and improves the muscle cells’ sensitivity to insulin.
Some research suggests that using this long-term could cause vitamin B12 and folate deficiency. Lack of these nutrients can cause hair loss. However, more studies are needed to establish the link between metformin and hair loss.
Hair Loss Prevention and Reversal for Diabetes Patients
It is essential to consult with a doctor to determine if the hair loss is indeed caused by diabetes or another condition. It is especially crucial to seek medical attention if hair loss occurs on the arms and legs as it could be a sign of poor blood flow.
If the hair loss is related to diabetes, the doctor can then prescribe medical treatment to treat hair loss. Some of these options include:
But there are a few non-medical ways to control and reverse hair loss. These include:
- Monitoring blood sugar levels
- Eating a balanced diet
- Taking supplements
- Avoiding tight hairstyles and hot and chemical treatments
All-Natural Solutions to Hair Loss Caused by Diabetes
Using the right kind of hair products also help counter hair loss. They provide nourishment to the hair and affect the look and health of one’s strands. It is advised to steer clear of those full of chemicals that can do more harm than good on the hair and scalp. Instead, opt for ones that are natural, vegan, and nutrient-rich.
Fortunately, our team and scientists has already developed such products. We have designed a simple 3-step solution to hair loss composed of the Hair Strength Shampoo, the Hair Recovery Conditioner, and the Hair Growth Serum. The hair care sets are specifically designed to effectively facilitate natural hair regrowth by increasing activity in the follicles.