Thyroid disease and hair loss

thyroid disease and hair loss

Thyroid disease and hair loss are often closely related and may be a sign that your thyroid isn’t working as it should.

Fortunately, getting the correct treatment and care could restore your hair growth.

What is the function of your thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in your neck that produces thyroid hormone. These hormones control many functions in your body, including your heart rate, metabolism, breathing and nervous system.

Diseases of the thyroid cause it to make either too much, or too little thyroid hormones. Depending on how much or how little hormone your thyroid makes, you may feel restless or tired.  You may also lose or gain weight.

Sometimes, thyroid disease can also result in hair loss. This is because thyroid hormones are essential for the growth and health of your hair follicles – the little openings on the surface of the skin through which your hair grows.

Could you have an over- or under-active thyroid?

Hypothyroidism (where the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone) can cause hair loss.  But at the same time, hyperthyroidism (where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone) can also cause hair loss.  This may be especially relevant if the condition is severe or left untreated for a long time.

Some forms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism come on abruptly and are diagnosed early.  Others may be present for months or even years before they’re diagnosed. Hair loss due to thyroid disease then often only becomes apparent several months after the onset of the disease.

Because hair growth has a long cycle (the hair on your scalp grows about 0.3 to 0.4mm per day or 15cm per year) many people only start to lose their hair after their thyroid condition is being treated.

There are many different reasons why these conditions may develop. Most people with hypo- or hyper-thyroidism have autoimmune thyroid disease.  This is a disease of the thyroid in which the immune system attacks and damages the thyroid.

If you have one autoimmune disease, you may be at increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases.  This may include alopecia areata – a condition in which the hair falls out in round patches.

Hair loss: what to do

Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about hair loss and/or if you believe you may have a thyroid problem. Other symptoms like fatigue, menstrual problems, forgetfulness, weight gain, and dry skin all warrant a visit to a healthcare practitioner.

Depending on the cause, your doctor may be able to prescribe a treatment to minimise and even reverse hair loss. Just remember that if you have a thyroid condition, it may take a couple of months before your hair grows back.  You may even lose more hair in the period after you’ve started taking your medication (because of the long growth cycle of your hair).

By Carine Visagie


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The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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