If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you probably already know that the disease can affect many different parts of the body. You may have come to terms with the various symptoms of the disease, but did you know that your luscious locks may also be in jeopardy?
In this article, we’ll explore the connection between hair loss and diabetes. We’ll take a look at the hair growth cycle, if diabetes medication can cause hair loss and treatment options that may be right for you.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects blood sugar levels, which subsequently affects every system of the body. It does so by damaging blood vessels and causing a chronic decrease in the oxygen and nutrient supply in the body.
One side effect of type 2 diabetes can be hair alterations like severe hair loss, hair thinning, hair fragility, sparseness of hair or decreased hair growth speed. In fact, losing hair at a significant rate can be one of the first warning signs of untreated diabetes.
Different mechanisms in the body can explain the connection between hair loss and diabetes.
The hair follicle is a highly active organ and needs a special environment with an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. Diabetes causes poor blood circulation which can affect the ability of hair follicles to operate normally.
This results in the follicle not producing a new strand of hair. When the old strand dies and falls, there is no replacement for the fallen hairs. This gradually changes your scalp, resulting in thinner and more sparsely located hairs.
Diabetes also causes both physiological and psychological stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are direct factors in hair loss. Dehydration is a factor as well. When coupled with stress, it can result in severe hair loss.
In patients with type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance.
High blood sugar levels are very damaging to the body and need to be moved into cells as soon as possible. Insulin works by telling the liver and muscles to store blood sugar in the cells. Over time, cells in the body stop responding to all that insulin—they’ve become insulin resistant.
Some studies have found an association between androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and insulin resistance. It has been proposed that insulin resistance could produce microvascular impairment, thus playing a role in the development of AGA.
Early diagnosis and treatment are key to getting your diabetes under control. This will also aid in reducing further severe hair loss from the disease.
Hair growth takes place in a cyclical model that has three stages: growth phase (anagen), regression phase (catagen) and resting phase (telogen).
The exogen phase refers to the hair shedding and does not occur during every cycle. The kenogen phase refers to a brief interval in which the hair follicle remains empty after the hair loss.
During kenogen, the hair follicle rests, but duration and frequency are greater in AGA—possibly accounting for baldness. In addition to the classic hair growth cycle, the hair follicle may follow an alternative route during which the telogen phase ends with leaving the follicle empty.
Certain medications used for the treatment of diabetes can interrupt the normal cycle of hair growth.
Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for people with diabetes. There are a few isolated reports of hair loss related to taking metformin.
A 2013 study suggested that long-term use of metformin may lead to a decrease in levels of both folate and vitamin B12 — two vitamins that may have possible links to hair loss. However, it’s important to note that the link between metformin and hair loss isn’t completely clear.
More often than not, if the hair loss is being caused by medication, it is reversed as your body adjusts to the medication later on.
If your diabetes is causing hair loss, there are a few treatment options that may help you.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that comes in either the form of either a liquid or a foam. Minoxidil is designed for direct use on the areas of your scalp with noticeable hair loss.
When minoxidil is applied to your scalp, it shortens the telogen (resting) phase of the hair cycle and encourages your hairs to enter into the anagen (growth) phase early.
Minoxidil usually produces noticeable results after around two months, with the most significant results usually visible after four months of regular use.
Minoxidil may be a good option for people with diabetes who are suffering from hair loss. We offer minoxidil online, either on by itself or as part of our Non-Prescription Hair Loss Kit.
DHT is the primary hormone responsible for AGA, or male pattern baldness. If you’re genetically sensitive to DHT, the small amount of DHT that’s produced by your body can have a serious negative impact on your hair over the long term.
Research shows that finasteride can lower serum DHT levels by more than 70 percent, helping to reduce the effects of DHT on your hair follicles.
As we mentioned earlier, some studies have found an association between AGA and insulin resistance. It has been proposed that insulin resistance may damage blood vessels, thus playing a role in the development of male pattern baldness.
It typically takes about six months before seeing results of finasteride on slowing hair loss.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects every system of the body, including the hair follicles. If you have diabetes and are currently struggling with hair loss, we have solutions. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if our treatment options may be right for you.