December 15, 2023
Diabetes is a chronic condition that produces a long list of symptoms. When not properly managed, it can cause other health problems, including damage to blood vessels.
Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles. When blood vessels are damaged, your hair follicles may not get the amount of oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Can diabetes cause hair loss? Yes, it can. However, it is possible to prevent hair loss and maintain strong, healthy-looking hair even if you are living with this condition.
Here’s how to tell if diabetes is causing your hair loss and how to contact Healthcare Associates of Texas if you need help managing one or both of these conditions.
How diabetes types 1 and 2 can cause hair loss
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body does not make enough insulin or any insulin at all. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your cells do not respond to insulin normally as they should. This is also known as insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar (glucose) from food into your cells, where it can be used for energy. When your body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it correctly, your blood sugar levels can get too high.
If your blood sugar levels stay high for a long time, your blood vessels can get damaged. Damaged blood vessels can prevent hair follicles from getting enough oxygen and nutrients. This can cause your hair to fall out or stop growing altogether.
Prediabetes may also cause hair loss. Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Signs that diabetes may be causing your hair loss
The number one sign of hair loss caused by diabetes is high, uncontrolled blood sugar levels. This is known as hyperglycemia.
In addition to causing hair loss, hyperglycemia can cause your hair to become thinner and more fragile. It can also make your hair grow more slowly.
Signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Extreme thirst
- Weakness and tiredness
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
Having imbalances in other hormones is another sign that diabetes may be causing your hair loss.
Insulin itself is a hormone. This means that an imbalance in insulin can throw off the balance of other hormones in your body. For instance, insulin imbalances can lead to imbalances in thyroid hormones.
Thyroid disorders are highly common in people with diabetes. Thyroid disorders affect between 17% and 30% of adults with type 1 diabetes and between 90% and 95% of adults with type 2 diabetes. Imbalances in thyroid hormones can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
High cortisol levels can also disrupt hair growth and cause hair loss. Cortisol is a stress hormone. According to the CDC, people with diabetes are 20% more likely to experience stress and anxiety than people without diabetes.
Signs your hair loss may NOT be caused by diabetes
Diabetes is only one of many causes of hair loss. However, if you have diabetes, your hair loss may be due to one or more other factors.
Here are signs that your hair loss may not be caused by diabetes:
- You have nutritional deficiencies. Low intake of nutrients, including iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, and E, can lead to hair loss.
- You are receiving cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer may cause temporary hair loss.
- You are using medications that cause hair loss as a side effect. Beta-blockers, birth control pills, and retinoids are some of the many drugs linked to hair loss.
- You recently gave birth. Childbirth can cause physical stress on the body, which leads to hair loss.
- You recently had a major illness or surgery. These events can cause hair loss due to stress.
- Hair loss runs in your family. Genetics and a family history of hair loss may increase your risk.
- Your hairstyles put too much tension on your hair follicles. For instance, pulling your hair tightly into a ponytail may lead to hair loss.
How to treat hair loss from diabetes
The best way to treat hair loss from diabetes is to get your blood sugar levels under control. Your doctor can help you find the best treatments based on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Treatments for diabetes may include medications and lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise.
In addition to controlling your blood sugar, here are other ways to treat hair loss from diabetes:
- Hair growth medications. Minoxidil, finasteride, and anthralin are topical medications that may help hair grow back in. Corticosteroid creams and injections are also commonly used to treat hair loss.
- Nutrition. Certain foods that are high in nutrients can contribute to hair growth. For instance, biotin can help thicken and strengthen hair and slow hair loss. Foods that are high in biotin include eggs, oats, and sweet potatoes.
- Exercise. Exercising regularly can treat hair loss by improving your blood circulation and naturally balancing your hormones—including insulin. Walking, running, and swimming are some of the many exercises that may help treat hair loss from diabetes.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. PRP therapy involves separating PRP from your own blood and using it to regenerate hair growth on your scalp.
- Hair transplants. This treatment involves taking hair follicles from another part of your body and implanting them onto areas where hair is thinning.
Ways to prevent hair loss from diabetes
You may be able to avoid diabetes-related hair loss by managing your blood sugar levels and making healthy lifestyle changes. Many of the methods used to prevent hair loss from diabetes are the same as treatments for diabetes-related hair loss.
Steps you can take to avoid hair loss from diabetes include:
- Taking your diabetes medications regularly and as directed.
- Seeing your doctor regularly for checkups.
- Talking to your doctor about other diabetes treatments if current treatments are not working.
- Exercising regularly on most days of the week.
- Improving your nutrition to include more nutrient-dense foods.
- Taking nutritional supplements if you are deficient in certain nutrients.
- Managing stress and anxiety.
- Switching to another diabetes medication if hair loss is listed as a side effect.
Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you need help managing diabetes and/or hair loss. Your doctor can help you uncover the root cause of your hair loss and recommend the best treatments.
Request an appointment with Healthcare Associates of Texas today to receive treatment for any medical condition, including diabetes or hair loss. We offer a variety of primary care services, including wellness exams, screenings, and more.
- What is Type 1 diabetes? (2023, September 5). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/what-is-type-1-diabetes.html
- Type 2 diabetes. (2023, April 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html
- Miranda, J. J., Taype-Rondán, A., Tapia, J. C., Gastanadui-Gonzalez, M. G., & Roman-Carpio, R. (2016). Hair follicle characteristics as early marker of Type 2 Diabetes. Medical Hypotheses, 95, 39–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2016.08.009
- National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hyperglycemia. High Blood Sugar | Diabetes | MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/hyperglycemia.html
- Biondi, B., Kahaly, G. J., & Robertson, R. P. (n.d.). Thyroid Dysfunction and Diabetes Mellitus: Two Closely Associated Disorders. Endocrine Reviews, 40(3), 789–824. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2018-00163
- Diabetes and mental health. (2023, May 15). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/mental-health.html
- Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2018). The role of vitamins and Minerals in hair loss: a review. Dermatology and Therapy, 9(1), 51–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
- Hair loss (Alopecia) and cancer treatment – side effects. (2020, January 15). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/hair-loss
Hair loss: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003246.htm
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