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  5. Diabetes And Hair Loss: Is There A Connection?

We understand how stressful living with Diabetes can be. If the food restrictions were not already enough, the chronic condition is known to bring hair loss along with it.

But, why do you notice excessive hair fall when you're diagnosed diabetic? What exactly is the relationship between the two and how can you deal with it? Let's find out in this article.

High blood sugar levels and complications associated with diabetes can have an indirect yet adverse impact on the hair follicles on your head, causing hair thinning. Hair loss can occur for a number of reasons - from iron deficiency and the stress of living with a chronic illness to even certain medication.

Insulin resistance, a symptom associated with diabetes, is known to cause hair loss. In addition to losing more hair than usual, diabetes can also slow down hair growth. Hair grows at a slower than usual rate among those suffering from the condition.

Diabetes can create a hostile environment for the hair follicles on your scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows, due to poor blood flow. In some cases, it can also trigger Telogen Effluvium, a disease where sudden and unexplained hair loss or thinning occurs as a reaction to the body’s inability to produce insulin.

There are also cases where people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes have reported diabetes-related Alopecia Areata, a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles on your head or in other parts of your body, causing hair loss. Some people with diabetes also get diagnosed with thyroid, which causes hair loss.

But fret not, as doctors say that the hair loss associated with Diabetes is only ‘limited’ and can be treated.

Does Diabetes Medication Cause Hair Loss?

Some medicines that you take to treat your diabetes may also be causing hair loss as a side effect. The drugs interfere with the normal cycle of scalp hair growth, leading to hair thinning.

In May 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration found an unacceptable level of a known carcinogen - N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) - in Metformin, a prescription drug used to control high blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes [1].

Research suggests long-term use of Metformin to treat diabetes could have adverse impacts such as a Vitamin B12 deficiency, one potential symptom of which is hair loss [2].

According to a case report published in Current Drug Safety in 2017, a 69-year-old man diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who was being treated with a fixed dose combination of Metformin and another medication commonly prescribed by doctors Sitagliptin, developed sudden loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, thus indicating a possible association between the drug and the reaction [3].

Acne medications, certain antibiotics, cholesterol lowering drugs, epilepsy drugs, thyroid medication, mood stabilizers and antidepressants, anticoagulants or blood thinners, chemotherapy medication and immunosuppressants prescribed to those with a certain type of cancer may result in hair loss. (4)

If you’ve been experiencing sudden and unusual hair loss, it is highly recommended that you speak to a doctor to identify the root cause.

I Am Diabetic: How Do I Treat Hair Loss?

One of the very first steps is to speak to a doctor if you have been experiencing worrisome hair loss in any part of your body. If diabetes has been identified as the cause of your hair loss or thinning, here are a few things you can do to not only prevent this but also help nurture hair growth in affected areas.

1. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Keeping a check on your blood sugar levels regularly and being prepared is one of the most effective ways to prevent development of any diabetes related complications, including hair thinning and hair loss.

You could do this by purchasing a continuous glucose monitor. You could also consider taking the A1C test, a simple blood test commonly used to obtain average blood sugar levels for the past two to three months. In addition to being a critical step towards creating a treatment plan to manage diabetes, the A1 test can also identify prediabetes.

The test result usually comes in the form of percentages. According to the American Diabetes Association, if your A1C level is between 5.5 % and 6.5 %, your levels have been in the prediabetes range and if your A1C level is 6.5 % or higher, your levels were in the diabetic range [5].

2. De-Stress

Diabetes can be an underlying condition whose symptoms and related complications can make life feel overwhelming at times. It can cause a lot of stress among those diagnosed with the condition. This can take a toll on your mental health and emotional well-being.

But did you know that stressing out also ultimately leads to poor blood glucose control in your body?

When people with type 2 diabetes are undergoing stress, they have reported an increase in their blood sugar levels. When you have type 1 diabetes, stress has been proven to make blood sugar levels more difficult to control.

So exhale! You are in charge of your health and with a few simple steps, you can control and manage your life. Meditation, for instance, has been proven to reduce stress levels and allow your mind to relax. Make some time in your day, in the morning preferably, to find a quiet space and practice breathing exercises.

3. Over-The-Counter Supplements

There are over-the-counter prescriptions and treatments which, if recommended by a certified professional, can allay the adverse complications related to diabetes, including hair loss and thinning.

Although some patients jump the gun and take B complex supplements to help them deal with hair loss, Dr. Harish Koutam, chief dermatologist at SkinKraft says “There is no strong evidence related to B complex being effective in hair loss management.” According to the doctor, Rogaine is effective in hair loss prevention.

“However, there is no evidence related to hair growth with any medication available, except Finasteride,” Dr. Harish says.

You must speak to your doctor to understand how to reduce hair loss and promote growth of new hair. You need to first find out the underlying cause of the unusual hair loss before you can begin treating it. This is why it is fundamental that you speak to a certified professional.

4. Essential Oils

Essential oils, particularly peppermint, lavender, rosemary and cedarwood oils mixed with a carrier oil of your choice, are recommended for hair regrowth. Peppermint oil is effective in enhancing hair growth while lavender oil is capable of generating new skin cells that can aid in hair growth and has antibacterial properties.

5. Eat A Balanced Diet

Eat a balanced diet rich in the nutrients your body and hair need. Lack of nutrients such as protein and iron can cause your hair to become brittle and fall out.

Vitamins that your body needs are found naturally in foods. Biotin, a vitamin known to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, for instance, is found naturally in almonds, sweet potatoes, onions and oats.

A healthy diet is also one of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy balance of hormones in your body which has a lot of direct and indirect benefits on hair.

Will Hair Lost From Diabetes Grow Back?

“The hair lost from diabetes is very limited and is not reversible,” says Dr. Harish. In some cases, diabetes related hair loss or thinning can last for a very long time.

The good news though is that in most cases diabetes-related hair loss can be controlled and treated with the right approach. Make sure to speak to your doctor and a Trichologist, a specialist who studies and treats the hair and scalp.

Can Insulin Resistance Cause Hair Thinning?

The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. A resistance to insulin occurs when your cells stop responding to the hormone and this in turn, causes an increase in blood sugar levels. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

Blood sugar levels have various impacts on your bodily functions - including the health of your heart and your hair’s ability to grow. Insulin resistance is a major symptom of prediabetes and hair loss is one of the triggers.

A 2014 study found links between Androgenic Alopecia, a disorder characterized by hair loss in genetically predisposed men and women, and insulin resistance [6]. Early intervention is critical to reduce the risk and complications of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later on in life, the study noted.

Wrapping up

Being diagnosed with diabetes can take a toll on your mental health as well. But remember, stress can also cause hair loss. You are not alone in your journey to control and manage diabetes. The key to ensure that you get the right treatment that includes emotional and social aspects of dealing with the condition as well.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin