If you’ve noticed a change in your health and your hair, you might be wondering if the two are connected. A variety of illnesses can contribute to hair loss.
Keep reading to explore a few of the most common illnesses that can cause hair thinning and hair loss, along with tips for how you can improve your hair wellness ASAP.
Hair Loss Is Complex
Dr. Enrizza P. Factor, a clinical dermatologist with MyVitiligoTeam, said that many factors can cause hair loss, including a poor diet.
Hereditary hair loss and stress are some common causes of hair loss that affect millions of Americans, but there are also a variety of illnesses that could be at play too. Autoimmune conditions, hormone levels, infections and even poisoning could be involved in hair loss.
Shop: Entry to Hair Wellness
These 12 Illnesses Might Cause Hair Loss
While this list is not exhaustive, here are 12 illnesses that are commonly associated with hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that leads to very distinctive and characteristic round bald patches that typically appear on the scalp but can happen elsewhere on the body too. Dr. Edward Salko, a board-certified physician and medical director of PersonaLabs, said that AA results from immune cells attacking hair follicles, which leads to hair loss.
Alopecia areata is often treated with corticosteroid injections to affected areas on the scalp, but it could also include immunomodulators or other oral medications to slow hair loss. Alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis are two more advanced forms of alopecia areata that could result in permanent hair loss.
Read More: What Is Alopecia Areata? One Type of Hair Loss Explained
While this virus is still an emerging discovery that has not yet been widely studied, there is a link between COVID-19 infections and subsequent hair loss triggered by a condition called telogen effluvium. This form of sudden hair loss, which can be triggered by any major illness or extreme stress to the body, such as surgery or the loss of a loved one, is typically only temporary and resolves on its own.
Read: Everything You Need to Know About Telogen Effluvium
The thyroid gland is an important part of our everyday health, and the hormones it produces are responsible for regulating cellular metabolism in both our hair and skin cells. Whether it's an overactive thyroid (called hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (called hypothyroidism), the impact can mean a disruption of hair follicle function.
“This thyroid hormone imbalance can result in hair loss — including hair on your head, body hair or eyebrows,” explained Dr. Yasmin. In most cases, addressing the underlying thyroid disease and hormonal imbalance with medication can help hair growth return to normal.
What You Need to Know: Thyroid Disorders and Hair Loss
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are believed to involve underlying autoimmune mechanisms and have been linked to hair loss. In some cases, decreased circulation to the scalp could be at play, but folks with diabetes also have a higher risk for other autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata and immune-system-related thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ illness.
The Connection: Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, is another autoimmune disorder commonly tied to hair loss. While it could manifest as diffuse thinning hair over the whole scalp, anywhere from 14%-50% of people with lupus develop the patchy hair loss associated with alopecia areata.
Lupus and Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments and More
A scalp infection like tinea capitis (also called scalp ringworm) could be the cause of hair loss when left untreated. It is a common fungal infection that most often happens in children but is typically resolved with oral antibiotics.
Burning Question: Can Scalp Inflammation Cause Hair Loss?
This chronic skin condition can cause thick, inflamed, silvery patches of skin on the scalp, though psoriasis can, and typically does, affect other parts of the body, too. While the condition does not cause hair loss itself, it can lead to hair loss if excessive itching damages hair follicles. It’s typically treated with topical medications, steroid injections and light therapy.
On a high level, alopecia (the medical term for hair loss) is often characterized as “non-scarring” and “scarring.” Non-scarring forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata and telogen effluvium, for example, do not permanently damage follicles. However, forms of scarring alopecia do damage follicles, and the hair loss associated with this family of hair loss conditions can be permanent. “This is because the hair follicles are destroyed, turning their growth zone into scarring tissue,” explained Dr. Salko. One commonly seen form of scarring alopecia is frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA), which is typically seen in women over 50 years of age.
Understand: Scarring Alopecias Explained
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Some sexually transmitted infections can cause hair loss, particularly when left untreated. Advanced cases of syphilis may cause patchy hair loss on the head, face and body, while HIV and AIDS are frequently associated with hair loss, due to the viral infection itself or because of secondary infections, nutritional deficiencies or hormonal changes.
This condition is a form of eczema that can affect the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis can be confused with common dandruff because it causes intense itching and flakes. However, the flakes tend to be more yellow in color and are accompanied by oily scalp and hair. This condition also doesn’t typically result in permanent hair loss, though when not treated, excessive itching can damage follicles in some people.
More: What You Should Know About Seborrheic Dermatitis
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an autoimmune condition that affects about 15% of women. “In PCOS, testosterone or, more specifically dihydrotestosterone, (DHT) causes miniaturization of the hair follicles,” explained Dr. Gibran Shaikh, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of MySkinofColor.com. This condition is characterized by high levels of male hormones called androgens, such as DHT, that can also cause other symptoms like weight gain, acne and excessive hair on other parts of the body.
Find Out: The PCOS and Hair Loss Connection
Heavy metal poisoning, such as thallium or arsenic poisoning, can lead to a particular form of hair loss called anagen effluvium. With anagen effluvium, hair is shed while it’s in its active growing phase (the anagen phase), and typically, hair falls out heavily and suddenly. Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment often experience anagen effluvium. Most often, anagen effluvium only causes temporary hair loss.
Learn: What Is Anagen Effluvium?
When To See a Doctor
It’s important to seek treatment from a doctor any time you notice distressing changes to your hair. In many cases, the best chances for returning to normal hair growth come with treating the underlying cause of the hair loss early. “A dermatologist can do a comprehensive blood workup in addition to a scalp biopsy to diagnose the cause of the hair loss,” explained Dr. Shaikh. Often treating the underlying illness is enough to resolve hair issues. A doctor can help you not only get to the root cause but also can provide you with treatment options.
A Holistic Approach to Health — and Hair
Hair loss is complex. If you’re experiencing hair loss related to an illness, it could be that treating the illness is all that is needed to stimulate regrowth. But there are several other tools you can put into your hair care toolkit to care for your hair holistically by supporting your general health and well-being.
When dealing with thinning hair or loss, it’s important to be extra gentle to your scalp. That means avoiding color or other chemical treatments, along with heat styling whenever possible. Try to skip tight buns, ponytails or braids that can strain follicles, and consider swapping out harsh chemicals for natural, vegan hair-friendly shampoos and conditioners.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Healthy foods provide the building blocks for healthy hair. Our follicles need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to function at their best. Nutritional deficiencies can impact hair growth, so be sure to eat a varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins.
When you need to supplement, consider options that are specifically formulated for hair health. Our GRO Biotin Gummies feature biotin in addition to folic acid, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E and other vital nutrients to support optimal hair health.
Stress impacts the body in so many ways, and hair follicles are not exempt. Stress is a contributing factor in various hair loss conditions and other illnesses, which can lead to hair loss. Adding stress management techniques to your daily life — techniques that could be as simple as spending more time in nature or deep breathing — can have beneficial impacts on your hair. Adding scalp massage with a scalp massager may work twofold by acting as both a way to relieve stress and stimulate blood flow to hair follicles.
Several illnesses are associated with hair loss, including infections, viruses, thyroid problems and autoimmune diseases. Treating the underlying medical condition will often improve hair growth, so see a doctor if you notice any changes to your health or your hair.
When dealing with thinning hair or hair loss, you can take a holistic approach to hair wellness by taking good care of your general health. Eating a healthy diet, managing stress and being gentle with hair care are all ways you can support better hair health. Be patient when looking for new hair growth since it can take several months before you can see changes.
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Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Lauren M. Wilson is a five-time published author, freelance writer and editor. She has built a career on investigating cultural niches and her latest works, including three books, have focused on advancing the mainstream conversation on plant medicines through education. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.
There are a wide range of conditions that can bring on hair loss, with some of the most common being pregnancy, thyroid disorders, and anemia. Others include autoimmune diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, Rogers says.How do you stop your immune system from attacking hair follicles? ›
Baricitinib helps regrow hair by preventing the body's immune system from attacking hair follicles.What are the three most common types of abnormal hair loss? ›
- Androgenetic Alopecia. Androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss, affecting more than 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States. ...
- Telogen Effluvium. ...
- Anagen Effluvium. ...
- Alopecia Areata. ...
- Tinea Capitis. ...
- Cicatricial Alopecia. ...
- Hair Shaft Abnormalities. ...
- Alopecia (nonscarring). Skin disorders, certain drugs, certain diseases, autoimmunity, iron deficiency, severe stress, scalp radiation, pregnancy, or pulling at your own hair.
- Alopecia (scarring). ...
- Hirsutism. ...
- Hair shaft disorders. ...
Possible causes of hair loss include stress, poor diet, and underlying medical conditions. Everyone experiences hair shedding, and it happens to each of us every day. Most people lose 50 to 100 hairs per day as part of this natural cycle, more on days you wash your hair.What lack of vitamin causes hair loss? ›
Only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss.What is the autoimmune disease that causes hair loss? ›
What causes alopecia areata? Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system mistakenly attacks a part of your body. When you have alopecia areata, cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles (the part of your body that makes hair).Does the Covid vaccine trigger alopecia? ›
No cases of alopecia areata or hair disorders have been reported after mRNA new-generation vaccine or among the adverse events reported in clinical trials on Pfizer and Moderna (Cambridge, MA, USA) vaccines.How do I know if my immune system is attacking my hair follicles? ›
Symptoms range from pain in hair roots, burning sensation on the scalp, the formation of crusts, red blisters, smooth bald patches on scalp and pigmentation. This apart, there are various types of autoimmune disorders like thyroid disorders (Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism) that trigger hair loss.What vitamin should I take for hair loss? ›
1. Biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) is important for cells inside your body. Low levels of it can cause hair loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails.
Biotin or B vitamin is one of the best vitamins when it comes to your tresses. When you lack biotin, your body is unable to create enough red blood cells because of which less oxygen travels through your scalp. Due to this, your scalp is not properly nourished and you experience hair fall.What are the only 2 approved hair loss treatments? ›
Finasteride (Propecia) and Minoxidil (both oral and topical - Rogaine) are the only drugs approved by the FDA to treat pattern baldness (hair loss resulting from hereditary causes).What are the four common hair problems? ›
- 1) Dandruff. Dandruff, scaly particles that cling to the root of the hair, can be caused by a poor diet, an infection, or even a sluggish metabolism. ...
- 2) Hair Loss. ...
- 3) Dry Hair. ...
- 4) Spit Ends. ...
- 5) Oily/Greasy Hair. ...
- 6) Frizzy Hair. ...
- 7) Dull Hair. ...
- 8) Heat Damaged Hair.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss. This disorder, also known as male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss, results in permanent hair loss from the scalp. Alopecia areata is caused by the immune system attacking hair follicles.What are the common diseases and disorders of scalp and hair? ›
- Seborrheic Dermatitis.
- Cradle Cap.
- Head Lice.
- Lichen Planus.
Telogen effluvium (stress-induced hair loss) usually causes diffuse thinning, a type of hair loss that affects your entire scalp. If you have telogen effluvium, your hair will normally look thinner and less dense than normal, especially under bright light.What is the main reason for hair loss in females? ›
What causes FPHL (Female Pattern Hair Loss)? Genes: Your family's genes can cause thinning of hair along the top of your head. Aging: Hormone changes as you age can cause balding. Menopause: This type of hair loss often gets worse when estrogen is lost during menopause.What blood tests are done for hair loss? ›
Too little iron in the bloodstream may contribute to hair loss. Doctors use blood tests to check the level of ferritin, a protein that indicates how much iron is stored in the body.How much vitamin D should I take for thinning hair? ›
According to Levitan, getting between 800 and 2,000 IU—or 20 to 50 micrograms—of vitamin D daily is usually enough, and “too much can cause toxicity.” Some people require 5,000 IU daily to maintain optimum blood levels and Vitamin D should be taken in the morning with Magnesium for maximum bioavailability.Can too much B12 make your hair fall out? ›
Significantly exceeding this dose, however, can cause illness. In general, the symptoms of vitamin toxicity include nausea, gastrointestinal problems like constipation and diarrhea, hair loss, rashes, and nerve damage.
People with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus, can experience hair loss as a troubling symptom of their disease. Other times though, the cause of the shedding locks could be the medications used to treat the disease.What causes inflammatory hair loss? ›
In some cases, the body's immune system will interpret the body's cells and organs as foreign organisms and fight them. The hair follicles can be interpreted as intruding elements and are often destroyed by the body's immune system. This results in the medical condition alopecia, or inflammation based hair loss.Can thyroid problems cause thinning hair? ›
Hair loss and thyroid disease
Severe and prolonged hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause loss of hair. The loss is diffuse and involves the entire scalp rather than discrete areas. The hair appears uniformly sparse.
The Big Pharma company has identified ritlecitinib as one of nine potential blockbusters it aims to launch by 2025. As Pfizer sees it, ritlecitinib could rack up sales of more than $1 billion in alopecia alone. The drug is also in development in vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.How can I stop my hair loss? ›
- Eat extra protein. You may not be getting enough protein each day and that can affect your hair growth. ...
- Take vitamins. ...
- Follow the Mediterranean diet. ...
- Use over-the-counter hair loss medication. ...
- Try low-level laser light therapy. ...
- Maintain good hair and scalp care. ...
- Can hair loss be reversed?
Telogen effluvium and COVID
The stressors created from COVID shock your body and disrupt the growth-rest cycle. The result is increased shedding of hair – as much as 30 to 50 percent of hair follicles are in the telogen stage compared to 5 to 10 percent – several months after becoming infected with COVID.
Blood tests can determine if you have typical levels of infection-fighting proteins (immunoglobulins) in your blood and measure the levels of blood cells and immune system cells. Having numbers of certain cells in your blood that are outside of the standard range can indicate an immune system defect.
The first sign of alopecia areata is often a round or oval bald patch on the scalp.How much B12 should I take daily for hair growth? ›
For hair loss, it is suggested that you supplement with 3 mcg or more of B12 per day to see results.What blood pressure meds cause hair loss? ›
People taking beta-blockers as a treatment for high blood pressure may experience hair loss as a side effect. These drugs include: Tenormin (atenolol) Corgard (nadolol)
Hormones are the most common cause of hair loss for both women and men. In both sexes, the specific hormone responsible for hair loss is the same: dihydrotestosterone (known as “DHT”), a hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone. Both men and women need testosterone.Which fruit is beneficial for hair growth? ›
Berries. Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may support hair growth. This includes vitamin C, which has strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can help protect hair follicles against damage from harmful molecules called free radicals.What vitamins should not be taken together? ›
- Magnesium and calcium/multivitamin. ...
- Vitamins D, E and K. ...
- Fish Oil & Gingko Biloba. ...
- Copper and zinc. ...
- Iron and Green tea. ...
- Vitamin C and B12.
The way you take care of your body is also important when it comes to hair growth stimulation. To promote hair growth, you need to increase your protein intake, especially by consuming food like fish, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Hair follicles are mostly made of protein, and the lack of it promotes hair loss.What do dermatologists prescribe for thinning hair? ›
Injections of corticosteroids: To help your hair regrow, your dermatologist injects this medication into the bald (or thinning) areas. These injections are usually given every 4 to 8 weeks as needed, so you will need to return to your dermatologist's office for treatment.How can I reopen my hair follicles? ›
Surgical treatment such as laser therapy or a hair transplant can help revive the hair follicles. Further, if the situation is not too worse, a hair specialist can also prescribe you supplements that will fulfil the nutritional requirements of your hair follicles.How can I regain my lost hair? ›
- Minoxidil (Rogaine). Over-the-counter (nonprescription) minoxidil comes in liquid, foam and shampoo forms. ...
- Finasteride (Propecia). This is a prescription drug for men. ...
- Other medications. Other oral options include spironolactone (Carospir, Aldactone) and oral dutasteride (Avodart).
- Hair Loss.
- Dandruff / Itchy scalp.
- Thinning hair.
- Lack of volume / overly fine hair.
- Grey hair.
- Dull hair.
- Dry hair.
- Colour damage.
It depends. “If a follicle has closed, disappeared, scarred, or not generated a new hair in years, then a new hair wouldn't be able to grow,” Fusco says. But if the follicle is still intact, yes, it is possible to regrow the hair—or to improve the health of the existing thinner hairs.What illness causes hairloss? ›
There are a wide range of conditions that can bring on hair loss, with some of the most common being pregnancy, thyroid disorders, and anemia. Others include autoimmune diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, Rogers says.
Alopecia areata is a disease that happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. Hair follicles are the structures in skin that form hair. While hair can be lost from any part of the body, alopecia areata usually affects the head and face.What are the different types of hair diseases? ›
- Androgenetic Alopecia. ...
- Telogen Effluvium. ...
- Anagen Effluvium. ...
- Alopecia Areata. ...
- Tinea Capitis. ...
- Cicatricial Alopecia. ...
- Hair Shaft Abnormalities. ...
Only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss.What are hair infections? ›
Folliculitis is a common skin condition that happens when hair follicles become inflamed. It's often caused by an infection with bacteria. At first it may look like small pimples around the tiny pockets from where each hair grows (hair follicles). The condition can be itchy, sore and embarrassing.What autoimmune disease causes itchy scalp? ›
Autoimmune diseases that have been linked with scalp itch are dermatomyositis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma and Sjögren syndrome. Itch may or may not be associated with skin lesions.What is the main reason for hair loss in females? ›
What causes FPHL (Female Pattern Hair Loss)? Genes: Your family's genes can cause thinning of hair along the top of your head. Aging: Hormone changes as you age can cause balding. Menopause: This type of hair loss often gets worse when estrogen is lost during menopause.Is hair loss related to thyroid? ›
Severe and prolonged hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause loss of hair. The loss is diffuse and involves the entire scalp rather than discrete areas. The hair appears uniformly sparse. Regrowth is usual with successful treatment of the thyroid disorder, though it will take several months and may be incomplete.What vitamin should I take for hair loss? ›
1. Biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) is important for cells inside your body. Low levels of it can cause hair loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails.Can heart problems cause hair loss? ›
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) patients are known to have significantly higher scores for baldness (receding frontal hairline, a critical bald area, and total or subtotal hair loss) as well as higher risk for blood pressure and smoking habit.Can thin hair become thick again in females? ›
Here's the truth: You can't change the size of your hair follicles. If you were born with fine hair, it's genetics, and no product will completely alter that. Of course, there are ways to maintain your hair health, add volume, and keep it from getting any thinner.
The only medicine approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil: It is applied to the scalp. For women, the 2% solution or 5% foam is recommended. Minoxidil may help hair grow in about 1 in 4 or 5 of women.What helps female thinning hair? ›
- Light therapy.
- Platelet-rich plasma.
- Hormone therapy.
- Hair transplant.
- Hair loss shampoos.
Hair loss may develop slowly with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. You won't necessarily notice patches missing or bald spots. Instead, your hair may seem thinner all over. You lose between 50 and 100 hairs from your head each day.What are early warning signs of thyroid problems? ›
- Weight gain.
- Weight loss.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Increased heart rate.
- Sensitivity to heat.
- Sensitivity to cold.
Yes. Most hair loss due to an iron deficiency can be reversed. If you've been experiencing hair loss and think it may be due to an iron deficiency, Dr. Piliang recommends talking to your doctor.How much B12 should I take daily for hair growth? ›
For hair loss, it is suggested that you supplement with 3 mcg or more of B12 per day to see results.Can too much B12 make your hair fall out? ›
Significantly exceeding this dose, however, can cause illness. In general, the symptoms of vitamin toxicity include nausea, gastrointestinal problems like constipation and diarrhea, hair loss, rashes, and nerve damage.What blood pressure meds cause hair loss? ›
People taking beta-blockers as a treatment for high blood pressure may experience hair loss as a side effect. These drugs include: Tenormin (atenolol) Corgard (nadolol)Can high cholesterol lead to hair loss? ›
In an open access paper recently published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, Subroto Chatterjee and colleagues from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, show that a diet high in fats and cholesterol can lead to skin inflammation, as well as hair loss and hair whitening.Does high blood pressure cause hair loss? ›
With such a strong correlation between hair loss and hypertension, individuals who experience hair loss are wise to consult a physician about their physical health. Hypertension causes blood pressure to rise, which also causes the heart to work harder to circulate blood.
Diabetes can also cause hair loss on the legs. Over time, diabetes-related damage to the blood vessels can result in peripheral artery disease (PAD). In PAD, a fatty deposit called plaque builds up in the blood vessels inside the legs. This interferes with blood flow and, consequently, hair growth.