Diabetes and Hair loss – is there a link?
Hair loss can affect anyone including those suffering from diabetes (type 1 or 2). Whether you acquired diabetes through autoimmune causes (Type 1 Diabetes) or through diet and lifestyle (Type 2 Diabetes) you can suffer hair loss from the stress your body is put under from sustained high sugar levels.
There has been a known correlation between Type 1 Diabetes (or any autoimmune condition) and alopecia (hair loss) for a while, (1). Similarly, if you have acquired type 2 diabetes later on in your life through diet and lifestyle factors, then high sugar levels can also predispose you to hair loss (2). But why does high sugar levels affect hair negatively?
The potential link between diabetes and hair loss
We know that high sugar levels put stress on the body’s blood supply of nutrients and oxygen to your organs. Your skin and hair, are likewise an organ, so naturally they would also be affected by very high sugar levels . Consequently, hair follicles can go through a process of thinning and can eventually fall out if your sugar levels are too high. Often patients notice their hair becomes very thin just before they get diagnosed with diabetes.
Additionally, if you have diabetes type 1 (an autoimmune disease) you also are predisposed to alopecia areata. This is also an autoimmune disease whereby your body starts to attack the hair on your head.
In a female, other conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can also contribute to high sugar levels and this also worsens hair loss. Together with the high levels of Testosterone in PCOS, you may notice a degree of hair loss.
If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, it can cause you to feel stressed. This is normal and manageable but it can also contribute to hair loss too.
So, what can you do to control your diabetes and potentially any hair loss?
First things first- you must see your GP and get diagnosed with diabetes appropriately.
Following this you will be advised on methods to reduce your sugar levels like changing your diet and lifestyle. Importantly, try to eat less foods containing high amounts of sugar (like doughnuts).
If you are diabetes type 1 you may also be advised to start Insulin. This helps to regulate your sugar level accurately so your body gets the right amount it needs and not too much.
If you are diabetes type 2, you should aim to change your diet and lifestyle to reduce your sugar levels. If your sugar levels are too high or remain too high despite making these changes you may start some medication. One of the medications is called metformin.
What is Metformin?
Metformin can be used to reduce your sugar levels. However, as with all medications there can be side effects. One of the side effects of Metformin can include hair loss. This occurs because Metformin can reduce your stomach’s absorption of Vitamin B12 and can, in the long run, cause anaemia (3). This could result in hair loss for some patients (4).
What should you do if your sugar levels are under control and you are still losing hair?
If your sugar levels are under control but you are still noticing hair loss months after being treated for diabetes then you are likely suffering from a pattern-type hair loss (female or male). You ought to see a hair loss specialist or your GP to find out more as you will require treatment to prevent hair loss.
There are plenty of treatment options available to you. Minoxidil and Finasteride are 2 great treatment options that can help strengthen your hair and prevent any further hair loss.
If you would like hair back in areas that have none then a FUE hair transplant could also be an option for you too. Our hair loss Doctors at The Treatment Rooms London are happy to explore your diagnosis and take you through all the treatments available to you.
Celebrities with diabetes
If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes and are feeling lonely- don’t be! There are many others in your position and there are lots of helpful websites including the following:
Also there are some well known celebrities who have type 1 and type 2 diabetes (5):
- Tom Hanks (Type 2)
- Larry King (Type 2)
- Jay Cutler (Type 1)
- Bret Michaels (Type 1)
- Patti Labelle (Type 2)
Those with type 2 diabetes have taken great strides to improving their sugar levels and some no longer need medication!