Thyroid Disorders & Hair Loss
‘Thyroid’ – you all must have heard about this term? But, do you exactly know what is thyroid? What is its role/function in our body? Could your hair loss be caused by thyroid disorder? If these questions sound like a mystery, read on to know about thyroid, its function and how it affects our hair health -
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is shaped like a little butterfly. It resides in front of your neck. To find it, just touch your throat in the Adam’s apple area with one finger and the top of your breastbone — the flat bone that runs down the middle of your chest — with another finger. The thyroid gland is located in that small space in-between your fingers.
It moves up and down when you swallow. See if you can feel it — and, you will.
Function of the Gland
The thyroid gland produces two major hormones that the thyroid makes and releases into the bloodstream are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). All the cells in the body need thyroid hormones to work efficiently. Thyroid hormones manage how quickly the body uses up energy. They regulate our metabolism; they are also key factors in helping children grow.
Any disturbance in the body can lead to malfunctioning of the thyroid gland and it will either become overactive or underactive. When the thyroid gland becomes overactive it is called hyperthyroidism. When the thyroid gland becomes underactive it is called hypothyroidism. In either condition the imbalance has to be rectified at earliest.
Hair loss and Thyroid Disorder
Research suggests that nearly half of all adults experience thinning of hair by age 40. Out of which about 20 per cent of individuals with thyroid disorders are evidenced to experience hair loss earlier and more quickly than the others.
Hair loss, therefore, tends to persist in thyroid patients, notwithstanding appropriate management and treatment.
Many patients also do not realize at all that their hair loss may be triggered by a thyroid disorder. They keep trying to manage their hair loss with different oils, shampoos, parlor therapies or even medication, but with no results. In fact, many of them come to our clinics complaining of nothing else but hair loss. However, when we suspect thyroid problems, based on their history and clinical signs, they are advised investigations, which confirm our suspicion in most cases — thyroid problem being the culprit.
So, what all you can do to restrict hair loss caused by thyroid disease?
The most important thing is to know the signs and symptoms of thyroid disorder so that you can take certain precautions before the disease takes a toll on your health.
Hyperthyroidism symptoms other than hair loss
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Increased appetite
- Rapid heart beat
- Frequent stools
Hypothyroidism symptoms other than hair loss
- Weight gain
- Fatigue; lack of energy
- Dry skin
A point worth noting is that, apart from diffuse hair loss all over the scalp, thyroid problems can also trigger patchy hair loss — alopecia areata. Smooth, bald patches may spontaneously appear over the scalp in this condition.
While hyperthyroidism causes general hair loss on the scalp, making hair thin and sparse, hypothyroidism makes hair dry, brittle, coarse and sparse, on the outer edge of the eyebrows.
In addition, general loss of body hair from areas other than the scalp may also sometimes be seen in thyroid disease.
Thyroid disease can trigger a number of symptoms which are helpful in diagnosis — some apparent, some subtle.
Your trichologist will order a simple blood test, when you present with symptoms that indicate thyroid disease — to confirm the diagnosis.
When the cause of hair loss due to thyroid disorders is established, the next step is to treat the hormonal problem — once this is done, hair loss automatically comes under control.
In most cases, once the hormones reach normal levels, excessive hair loss too comes under control. Likewise, the density or volume of hair which had reduced also comes back to ‘normal.’ However, this could take up to one hair cycle — i.e., over three years.
- Make sure you eat broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabagas, spinach, turnip, peaches and pears on a regular basis — they help to curb thyroid hormone production, naturally
- Avoid caffeinated drinks — they ‘up’ your anxiety levels and do no good to your thyroid problem.
- Limit the intake of soy — it will do your hair and health no good, when your thyroid gland is underactive
- Use only iodized salt in your diet — it helps your thyroid
- Make fish, roasted sesame seeds, avocados and almonds, a part of your daily diet plan
- Exercise to keep fit and healthy
- Meditate to beat anxiety and stress.