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  5. Hair Loss Due To Iron Deficiency: Symptoms, Treatments & Potential Risks

Have you been experiencing severe hair loss for months? You’ve tried everything from spa treatments to home remedies. But nothing helped? You answer could lie in a ferritin test, which would disclose your body’s iron levels.

While hair fall can be caused by many factors, lack of iron is one of them. Iron is a vital mineral that carries and deposits oxygen to different parts of our body. This includes the hair growth cells. Let’s take a look at how you can identify and prevent hair fall due to iron deficiency.

Why Does Iron Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

Iron contributes to the production of hemoglobin in your body. Hemoglobin delivers nutrients and oxygen to your hair’s cells, which is vital for their growth. This process is interfered due to a lack of iron, which also means low haemoglobin levels, leading to loss of hair (1) (2).

What Does Hair Loss Caused By Iron Deficiency Look Like?

Hair fall caused by a lack of iron can be quite like the traditional male and female pattern baldness. This could range from bald spots to unusually large amounts of hair strands in your hair brush. Studies suggest that hair fall caused by a lack of iron in the body may imitate hair fall that occurs in genetic male and female pattern baldness (3).

Symptoms Of An Iron Deficiency

  • General fatigue
  • Strange cravings to eat items that are not food
  • Brittle nails
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Tongue swelling
  • Tingling feeling in the legs
  • Weakness and dizziness

If you do notice other symptoms indicating low iron levels in your body, consult your doctor firstly and rectify the root cause of the issue.

A way of measuring iron levels in your body is by conducting a ferritin blood test. Ferritin is an important protein in your body in which iron is stored. Low ferritin will automatically indicate lack of iron in your blood test.

In such a case, your doctor may prescribe iron supplements to increase your iron levels. Here are a few treatment methods for hair loss due to the deficiency:

1. Minoxidil

Minoxidil, a topical medicine recommended for hair re-growth was initially prescribed to patients with high blood pressure. It was then noticed that these patients experienced excessive amounts of hair growth. That is how it came out as a topical medicine to treat hair loss in males and females (4). Applying minoxidil to your scalp can aid-in hair re-growth.

2. Finasteride (Propecia)

This medication can help stimulate hair growth cells and also treat hair loss. However, it is only prescribed to men. It restricts the body from producing dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that is at the root of male pattern baldness. However, finasteride does not cure hair loss. If you discontinue medication, your hair may continue to fall.

Talk to your doctor about possible side-effects of this medication. Your doctor may recommend using it in combination with minoxidil.

3. Surgery

Invasive methods like surgeries and PRP can be considered as well, if you don’t see results with other forms of medication. Surgeries for hair loss include hair transplantation and restoration.

4. Foods To Prevent Hair Fall

Adding these foods to your diet may help increase the levels of iron in your body, thereby preventing hair fall:

  • Green vegetables like spinach
  • Dry fruits like raisins
  • Egg yolk (make sure you don’t have high cholesterol levels)
  • Red meat
  • Soy beans, broccoli and lentils

What Should Ideal Iron Levels Be For Hair Growth?

According to doctors, the normal ferritin (an indicator of iron) levels in women are 20 to 200 nanograms per milliliter in women and 20 to 500 nanograms per milliliter in men.

Most researchers have agreed that we require 50 to 70 nanograms per milliliter of ferritin for hair regrowth. Lower levels of ferritin can result in hair loss.

Who Is At Risk Of Being Iron Deficient?

1. Females

Females tend to be at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia during their childbearing years.

2. Vegetarians

Non-vegetarian foods tend to have higher amounts of iron as compared to vegetarian foods. This makes vegetarians more vulnerable when it comes to iron levels.

3. If You Frequently Donate Blood

In this case, your hemoglobin levels may drop, but even get replaced easily. However, make it a point to consume foods rich in iron for a few days after you have donated blood.

4. Poor Absorption Capacity

Some bodies cannot absorb iron properly. Certain medical conditions may diminish the production of gastric acid (which is responsible for easier absorption of food) and restrict your body from absorbing iron. Intestinal diseases can also interfere with iron absorption in your body. In such cases, you can be iron deficient.

Can Too Much Iron Be Harmful?

High doses of iron can also harm your body. The most common risk factors are:

1. Iron Poisoning

This happens when people consume high doses of iron supplements (5). Iron poisoning can result in the following:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain

In some cases, death can occur if not addressed immediately.

2. Hereditary Hemochromatosis

This is a hereditary disorder that occurs with high doses of iron absorption from the food we consume (6). It is a genetic disorder. You may or may not notice symptoms like sexual dysfunction, darkening of skin, diabetes, fatigue and heart issues.

3. African Iron Overload

Consuming foods containing iron very often can cause this (7). This condition was first observed in Africa when breweries prepared their beer in iron pots. The exact cause of it is unknown. However, the condition has been linked to genetics.

Note:

You may experience a change in your bowel movements due to excess iron in your body.

Wrapping Up

Iron is a mineral that contributes to hair growth. It carries and delivers oxygen to your hair growth cells, stimulating the production of hair strands. Symptoms like headaches, swelling of the tongue, fatigue and weakness can mean your body may be lacking iron. Change in the color of your nails and hair loss can also indicate an iron deficiency. Consuming foods that are rich in iron or taking iron supplements can help rectify the issue. You can also try OTC topical treatments or hair transplantations for hair regrowth. However, note that large amounts of iron can adversely affect your health.

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