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 .
There are two different 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.
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.
Losing your hair can be a big problem for many people. 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.
Is there a link between diabetes and hair loss?
Type 2 diabetes mainly affects our blood sugar levels, which has a knock-on effect on your other bodily functions — including hair growth.
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.
Diabetes damages the blood vessels and decreases your body’s supply of oxygen and nutrients, which can all cause significant damage to your hair follicles. This often leads to hair loss, hair thinning and decreased hair growth.
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 as normal. When you have diabetes you can also experience lower levels of biotin which can also be detrimental to hair health .
Because of this, hair follicles are not able to grow new strands of hair. So when one of the old strands falls off and dies, there is no replacement hair – which will then give the appearance of hair thinning, or even bald patches starting to appear.
Some studies have looked into the effects of diabetes and hair loss. For example, one study  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 androgenetic alopecia (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 . 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 – 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 normal cycle of hair growth, particularly treatments such as Metformin, which is commonly prescribed to people with diabetes.
In a 2013 study , researchers found that the long-term use of metformin can lead to decreased levels of vitamin B12, which is needed for hair health. 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 .
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 .
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.
Some common treatments for hair loss include Finasteride, Dutasteride, and Minoxidil. But before taking these, you should double-check with a health professional that they won’t interfere with any diabetes medication you may be taking.
If you’re still concerned about diabetes and hair loss, 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. Simply book a no-obligation consultation call with us today.
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