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Does Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on February 14, 2024

Diabetes is a condition that can cause a range of effects on the body and affects more than 4.9 million people in the UK alone [1].

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be aware of the different ways this condition can wreak havoc on your body including the effect it can have on your hair.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the potential link between diabetes and hair loss, along with how you can prevent your hair from thinning or falling out if you have diabetes.

Table of Contents

Is there a link between diabetes and hair loss?

There are two types of diabetes: type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes. Around 90% of people who suffer from diabetes have type 2, and then there are also 2% who have other, rarer types of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes hair loss

Type 2 diabetes mainly affects the blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. Persistently high blood sugar levels can lead to tissue and organ damage as well as damage to blood vessels. Damage in the blood vessels can lead to restricted blood flow which in turn deprives certain areas of the body of oxygen and other essential nutrients.

This deprivation can lead to disruption in the hair growth cycle and damage to the hair follicles which in turn leads to hair loss, hair thinning, and decreased hair growth.

Therefore, when you have a diet that’s high in sugar, this can often trigger sustained insulin release that can cause you to develop type 2 diabetes. That’s why it’s important to make sure your diet is balanced and healthy. Find out more about the effect of a low-carb diet on hair loss.

Type 1 diabetes hair loss

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for making insulin. As a result, individuals with Type 1 diabetes suffered from elevated blood sugar levels due to the body being unable to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels.

Individuals who suffer from Type 1 diabetes are more likely to also suffer from autoimmune disorders such as alopecia areata and autoimmune thyroid disorders. Alopecia areata can cause patchy hair loss and hormonal changes due to under or overactive thyroid can cause hair loss characterized by overall thinning hair.

How diabetes causes hair loss

The reason diabetes is thought to increase the likelihood of you experiencing hair loss is because of how fragile and sensitive our hair follicles are. They need nourishment and oxygen if we want them to produce hair.

When you suffer from diabetes, the normal nutrients and oxygen that our hair follicles rely on get cut off. This can prevent them from being able to operate in their normal hair growth cycle. In addition, individuals with diabetes can also experience lower levels of biotin which can also be detrimental to hair health [2].

Due to nutrient and oxygen deprivation, hair follicles cannot grow new strands of hair. So when one of the old strands falls off and dies, there is no replacement hair. As a result, this gives the appearance of hair thinning, or even bald patches starting to appear.

Some studies have looked into the effects of hair loss from diabetes. For example, one study [3] looked into central scalp hair loss in African American women where it found that type 2 diabetes increased the risk of hair loss. However, there is still a lack of large-scale studies that explore the relationship between diabetes and hair loss.

Diabetes and androgenetic alopecia

With many diabetes sufferers regularly using insulin to control their blood sugar levels, they can sometimes develop insulin resistance over time which has been linked to (AGA) in men and women [4-5]. AGA is the scientific name for male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.

Diabetes and alopecia areata

If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, you’re more likely to have a condition called alopecia areata [6]. This is an autoimmune disorder where white blood cells attack healthy hair follicles and cause premature hair loss.

Diabetes and telogen effluvium

Not only can diabetes physically cause your hair follicles to stop growing new hair, but it can also cause stress and anxiety which are both common causes of hair loss.

Anxiety-related hair loss is known as telogen effluvium, which is a temporary form of hair loss that normally manifests itself as hair loss across the scalp.

Finally, people with diabetes are also more likely to be affected by thyroid disease, which is another reason why your hair might be falling out.

Can diabetes medication cause hair loss?

Certain medications can interrupt the hair growth cycle, particularly diabetes management treatments such as Metformin, which is commonly prescribed to people to help manage blood sugar levels. Find out more if Mounjaro, the new drug for diabetes, can cause hair loss.

In a 2013 study [7], researchers found that the long-term use of metformin can lead to decreased levels of vitamin B12, which is needed for hair growth. Because of this, patients who had been using metformin for a long period of time are more likely to also experience hair loss.

However, other treatments may have a different effect. One study found that insulin (a key diabetes medication) was actually able to reverse the effects of alopecia [8].

How to manage the effects of diabetes

Like many conditions, there are ways that you can limit the severity of your diabetes symptoms.

Firstly, you should be aware of the warning signs of diabetes so you can get a speedy diagnosis and start getting treatment. Early warning signs of diabetes can include high blood sugar levels, extreme thirst, unintentional weight loss, heart problems, and hair follicle changes [9].

If you do find that your hair loss is related to your diabetes, you should also speak about the right course of treatment to help you.

What can I do to treat hair loss?

Some common medications used for treating hair loss include FinasterideDutasteride, and Minoxidil. However, before you consider taking these, you should double-check with a health professional that these medications won’t interfere with any diabetes medication you may be taking.

If you’re still concerned about diabetes and your loss of hair, it’s time to talk to a hair loss specialist. At the Wimpole Clinic, we’ll examine your hair loss and recommend the best course of treatment. We’ll be happy to take you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Simply book a no-obligation consultation call with us today.

Does Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on February 14, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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