The Connection between Diabetes and Hair Loss

man with hairloss problems

Diabetes is a chronic condition that prevents production and the effective use of insulin in your body. This then causes a buildup of sugars in the bloodstream. The excess amounts of glucose in the blood can damage vital organs in your anatomy including kidneys and nerves. Your blood vessels are also at risk of damage. Should they be damaged, the hair follicles are also likely to miss out on enough amounts of oxygen. Lack of enough oxygen can affect the growth of hair. Find out how diabetes affects its growth and possible treatment applications.

Role of Insulin in Hair Loss

The hormone insulin produced on the pancreas allows your body to utilize glucose from carbs consumed exhaustively. It moves the glucose from the bloodstream to the cells for energy. With diabetes, you are either not able to produce the hormone (type 1), or it is produced, but the entire anatomy does not use it effectively (type 2).

The buildup of sugars which then occurs in the bloodstream damages the hair producing cells in your scalp, your leg, eyes, pubic area, and other body parts. Dogs and cats of any age or breed can also experience diabetes-related complete or partial fur loss. Dogs are affected in multiple ways, that includes through the lymphatic, immune and endocrine system, and the skin. Although shedding is normal, if you notice abnormal thinning in your dog’s fur, get a diagnosis from your vet.

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Diabetic People

Because diabetes tends to have the following effects on the growth cycle of hair, it can lead to its loss.

  • Excessive growth of hair
  • Impaired hair growth
  • Inhibited formation of new hair

Hair thinning can be caused by many factors including hormones, stress, underlying medical conditions, and autoimmune diseases such as thyroid and rashes.

Stress and Hormonal Imbalance

The disruption of hormones can result from uncontrolled diabetes. Because they are complex substances working together to control the actions of many parts of your body, once they fluctuate due to the presence of diabetes, the regeneration process of hair follicle is negatively affected. Diabetes-related stress can also trigger hair loss. It does so in 3 ways:

  1. Trichotillomania: This is whereby the affected person gets an irresistible urge to pull out hair from various parts of the body. It is a way of responding to feelings of tension and stress.
  2. Telogen effluvium: In this type, hair follicles are pushed into a resting phase. Hair is likely to come off without effort when cleaning it or combing.
  3. Alopecia areata: Severe stress is responsible for this type, causing the autoimmune system to attack the hair follicles. It causes an attack on each individual living cell in the eyebrows, head, eyelashes, and other parts of the body. Alopecia areata causes hair to fall out in small patches.

High Blood Sugar

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause a spike in blood glucose leading to the damage of tissues and blood vessels. The spike in blood sugars can also accelerate the onset of yeast infection as a result of a weakened immune system. When blood vessels are damaged, the flow of blood is restricted so your cells receive little amounts of oxygen. Oxygen and nutrients deficiency can adversely affect the growth of hair.

Medication

Certain diabetes prescriptions can cause hair loss. Metformin, for instance, a drug prescribed for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women and hyperglycemia or type 2 diabetes is said to decrease vitamin B-12 and folate. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is linked to hair loss. The medications likely to result in the loss of hair include weight loss pills, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, thyroid medication, and some antibiotics.

Thyroid

If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, your thyroid levels should be checked at least once a year to prevent the development of the hyper or hypothyroid disease. Hypothyroidism common in people with type 1 diabetes can result in a significant loss of hair. A gluten-free diet is recommended for people suffering from hypothyroidism. It is theorized to reduce the occurrence of hair loss because gluten causes inflammation which then aggravates autoimmune diseases.

a spoonful of sugar on top of pill bottles

Blood Sugar and A1C Management

The recommendations provided by the American Diabetes Association must be followed to improve the levels of blood sugar. An HbA1c or one below 7 percent (an average of 154 mg/dL) is needed to prevent the advancement of the disease and its complications. If you have prediabetes, you will notice an increased level of thirst, frequent urination (diabetes insipidus), blurred vision, and fatigue. You can follow these guidelines to manage diabetes.

Risk factors include obesity, dietary patterns, family history, waist size (men with a waist larger than 40 inches and women with a waist larger than 35), age (people over 45 years), and the development of gestational diabetes. Lack of lifestyle changes such as exercise and indulging in a proper diet can quickly lead to type 2 diabetes.

Can Hair Loss from Diabetes Be Reversed?

Hair loss resulting from diabetes can be reversed. Although some treatments are temporary, there are medications for both males and females which your doctor can recommend for you. The best way to trigger a reversal is by maintaining a stable level of blood glucose. You can control your blood sugars by:

  • Taking the prescribed medication
  • Monitoring your blood sugar
  • Shifting to a low carb healthy nutrition plan
  • Exercising

Diabetes Hair Loss Treatment

Hair loss in diabetes is reversible. Several treatment methods including biotin and topical medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) need to be adopted to prevent hair thinning and balding.

Biotin

Diabetic people are likely to have lower levels of biotin. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin found in onions, almonds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, oats, and eggs. Studies show that when taken orally, it can reduce the loss of hair in people with diabetes.

Lifestyle Changes

Exercise does not directly prevent the loss of hair but enables the body to maintain a stable flow of sugars. Regular exercise encourages an increase of blood in the hair follicles. A nutritious diet can also help you manage your condition. High fiber diets, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables allow your body to control blood glucose.

Hair loss can be triggered by many factors, which can then put stress on your diabetic condition. Be sure to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and other factors that could accelerate hair thinning or breaking. Seek out your health provider to diagnose the underlying cause of your condition.

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