Thyroid Conditions - Female Hair Loss Guide

There are several causes of hair loss but one which may not be so obvious is that of thyroid problems. We tend to assume that hair loss is inherited or as a side effect of medication or cancer treatment.

It can also be symptomatic of an underlying medical condition which then requires further investigation. If you are fit and healthy with a full head of hair but notice that it has started to thin then there is usually a reason for this.

And this reason may be a problem with your thyroid gland.

Thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is situated within the neck and is responsible for regulating the metabolism. The metabolism is a chemical process in the body in which food is stored and converted to energy. The thyroid gland controls this process by the production of a hormone called thyroxine.

But this gland can become over-active (hyperthyroidism) or under-active (hypothyroidism) and produces too much thyroxine or too little.

These conditions can occur as a result of an illness or for no apparent reason at all. It can occur at any age although it usually happens between the ages of 30 and 50.

So how does that affect hair growth?

Your hair is very sensitive to any changes in your body and will shut down if necessary. It is an indicator of your current state of health so if there is a problem then this will be reflected in the condition of your hair.

Hair growth is initiated by your hair follicles so if these are under a strain either because of a lack of energy or too much then this will affect the hair growth/loss cycle.

If you have an over-active or under-active thyroid then your hair will feel dry or coarse to the touch or will have a tendency to become knotted or tangled. Your hair will become thinner and may start to fall out although complete baldness is unknown.

Treatment of thyroid problems

But this condition is reversible. Thyroid problems are usually treated by prescribing an artificial hormone called levothyroxine. This takes over the job of regulating the metabolism which the thyroid gland is unable to do.

If you are prescribed this drug then you will find that your hair starts to re-grow within a few months and is back to its normal condition after 6 months.

But, levothyroxine can cause another type of hair loss. It increases the level of a hormone called 5-alpha reductase which then combines with testosterone (women have this as well as men) to produce a derivative called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is responsible for male pattern baldness.

Not every woman is affected by this and in some cases, levels of 5-alpha reductase don’t reach a high enough level to cause this problem. If this affects you then speak to your GP but don’t stop taking your thyroid medication.

Unfortunately, thyroid problems can worsen over time and you may find that your thyroid medication isn’t strong enough to counteract the symptoms. And this also means that your hair starts to thin again.

If this happens then visit your GP who will carry out another blood test to see if you need a higher dose of this medication.

Is there anything else that will help?

Many women find that taking evening primrose oils helps as it blocks the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DLT). And this prevents the risk of male pattern baldness.

Another option is to increase the amount and variety of iodine rich foods in your diet. Include leafy green vegetables, strawberries, cheese, eggs and seafood in your diet.

Some people use a high-iodine shampoo but this doesn’t prevent hair loss in progressive thyroid conditions.

Your GP is your first port of call in any of these situations and will be able to advise you on the most suitable course of treatment.

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