Last Updated on December 19, 2023
Diabetes, a pervasive metabolic disorder affecting millions worldwide, is renowned for its far-reaching implications on various bodily functions. Amidst its well-documented complications, a lesser-known concern emerges—hair loss.
Hair loss can be distressing and frustrating. It can happen for a variety of reasons, including drug side effects or changes in blood flow. There are plenty of lifestyle modifications and treatment options that can help keep diabetes symptoms at bay. Working closely with a medical professional can significantly improve one’s quality of life with diabetes.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of diabetes, how it affects hair loss, and some treatments for preventing diabetes and diabetes hair loss.
Understanding Diabetes and Its Systemic Effects
To understand the impact of diabetes on hair loss, it is necessary to first understand the nature of diabetes. As a chronic condition characterized by increased blood sugar levels, diabetes has systemic effects that extend to many organs and bodily functions. This blog will provide an overview of diabetes and set the stage for understanding its potential impact on hair health.
Typical Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes impairs the body’s capacity to manufacture or use insulin efficiently. Insulin is a hormone that lets glucose from food enter the cells and be used for energy. When the body does not have enough insulin or does not use it properly to get glucose into the cells, glucose levels in the bloodstream rise. This can result in a variety of symptoms, including:
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Frequent infections
- Hand and foot numbness
- Vision distortion
Diabetes impacts more than just insulin response and glucose levels; it also affects many other bodily functions. Because blood sugar serves as a fuel for the entire body, changes in how your body uses this fuel can result in a variety of physical symptoms. Diabetes can also harm arteries, which are responsible for delivering nutrients to cells, tissues, and organs.
Does Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Hair goes through four stages of development on average. The active growing period lasts at least 2 years. Hair grows 1 centimeter (cm) per month at this time. Hair enters a resting phase after a transition period. This can persist for up to 4 months. Some resting hair falls out after this stage.
Diabetes can interfere with this process, slowing down hair growth. It can also make one lose more hair than usual. That hair loss is not limited to your head. Hair loss can occur on the arms, legs, and other body areas. When the hair regrows, it grows at a slower rate than usual.
There are three major causes of diabetes hair loss:
Immune System Disorders
People who have type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases. Alopecia areata is among the most frequent. The immune system targets the hair follicles, resulting in patches of hair loss on the scalp and other places of the body.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) occurs when sugar accumulates in the blood and is unable to enter cells. This can develop as a result of insulin deficiency, insulin resistance, or a combination of the two. Microvascular (smaller) and macrovascular (bigger) vessel damage can occur over time. For example, if blood vessels in the legs are damaged, hair follicles below the knees may be damaged because of a lack of blood flow, which disrupts the supply of oxygen and nutrients and affects the hair growth cycle.
Hyperglycemia can also cause hair thinning, fragility, sparing, or a slower rate of hair growth. Insulin resistance may promote microvascular damage, contributing to the pathophysiology of androgenic alopecia, a hereditary cause of hair loss.
Diabetes is closely linked to thyroid disorders. Thyroid hormone imbalances can disrupt the regular hair cycle.
Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are also known to be higher in diabetics, causing insulin resistance. Excess cortisol can cause hair follicle disruption, resulting in hair growth diseases such as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, and telogen effluvium.
Uncovering the Link Between Stress and Diabetes Hair Loss
Stress, both physical and emotional, is an omnipresent companion of diabetes. Stress, in combination with the metabolic imbalances that come with diabetes, can cause telogen effluvium, a condition in which hair follicles enter a resting phase, resulting in scattered hair loss.
Is Diabetes Hair Loss Reversible?
Hair loss can be reversed in rare situations. There are various treatments available, some of which differ for men and women. Even when hair loss treatments are helpful, the majority of them are merely temporary solutions that work only while the person is using them.
Some people can slow or stop hair loss caused by diabetes. The most effective way to do this is to keep blood sugar levels under control and to manage stress.
A person can control their blood sugar by:
- Monitoring their blood sugar readings on a regular basis
- Taking all medications as prescribed by their doctor
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Exercising on a regular basis
Among the stress-reduction and stress-management strategies are:
- Seeking support from friends and family
- Receiving counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Practicing mindfulness by using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises
Diabetes Hair Loss Treatment and Management
It is important to realize that no single treatment is effective for everyone. Treatment choices will depend on the reason and type of hair loss one is experiencing. Hair can grow back in many cases once the intervention is initiated.
Blood Sugar Control
Since high blood sugar levels are linked to vascular disruption, poor circulation, and hormonal abnormalities, managing blood sugar levels within normal limits may help prevent hair loss.
Normal blood sugar range is determined by age, frequency of hypoglycemia, and length of diabetes. Typically, blood sugar levels should be between 80 to 130 mg/dL after fasting for eight hours or more, and less than 180 mg/dL two hours following a meal. These goals should be modified according to one’s specific needs with the assistance of their healthcare practitioner.
Some medicines have been proven to help treat hair loss and restore hair. The type of medication administered will be determined by your age and the potential for negative effects.
Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a well-known over-the-counter treatment for hair loss. The drug is applied directly to the parts of the body where hair loss has occurred. Both men and women can use minoxidil. To get the most out of this product and avoid unpleasant side effects, it is critical to follow the directions on the label.
Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription medicine used to treat male pattern baldness. It is available as an oral tablet that must be taken on a daily basis. The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved finasteride for female use.
A doctor may prescribe steroid injections, steroid tablets, or another oral immunosuppressant, such as methotrexate or cyclosporine, to treat alopecia areata. However, some of these treatments are associated with a substantial risk of side effects.
Biotin is a subtype of vitamin B that occurs naturally in a variety of foods. Some diabetics have reduced biotin levels in their bodies.
Although exercise will neither prevent nor reverse hair loss, it can help the body in maintaining proper blood circulation. Exercise on a regular basis can help increase blood flow to different parts of the body, including the hair follicles and the upper and lower extremities. It can also help in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
A healthy, balanced diet is also a significant component of diabetes management. Diets rich in high-fiber foods, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins are beneficial for blood sugar control.
The link between diabetes and hair loss involves a complex interplay of physiological, immunological, and hormonal variables. Understanding these connections enables individuals with diabetes to take proactive steps to manage their overall health and reduce the risk of diabetes hair loss.
While the complications are obvious, a comprehensive approach to diabetes management can help with one’s well-being while also maintaining a healthy and colorful head of hair. In this journey toward comprehensive wellness, consulting healthcare professionals for personalized advice remains paramount.