Who would have thought that our hair could be a sign of our health? Too much or too little of it is always a problem. This is evident when it is looked through a cosmetic lens, but in reality, hair loss and growth patterns can tell us a lot about our health. Here are a few conditions where hair changes are a significant symptom, and how the conditions can be addressed.
1. Alopecia Areata
In this condition, people begin to lose patches of hair from both the scalp and the body. It is an autoimmune condition, characterized by hair loss in small, dispersed patches. There is no treatment for this condition.1 Like many other autoimmune conditions, the presence of alopecia areata can point to other underlying autoimmune disorders.
2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS is a condition that many women battle, sometimes for life. In this condition, cysts on the ovaries cause an excess of hormone production. One of the well-known side effects of PCOS is hirsutism or unwanted hair growth on the body. As an extra dose of spitefulness, women with PCOS begin to lose hair from the head even as it grows so extensively on the body.2 When treated appropriately, the symptoms of PCOS can be reversed to an extent.
3. Adrenal Cancer
In adrenal cancer, the growth of a tumor causes an excess production of cortisol, leading to several symptoms. Hair growth on the face, chest and back in women, when accompanied by irregular periods, easy bruising and high blood sugar should always be tested for adrenal cancer.3 Treatment for this depends on nature and how much the tumor has spread and can range from simple surgical removal to chemotherapy.
4. Iron Deficiency
Who would have thought that anemia and hair loss are linked? Unexplained, prolonged hair loss also known as telegenic effluvium is common in some people. Stress is the most well-known cause. Iron deficiency follows. The iron in our serum is known as serum ferritin and is responsible for keeping the hair follicle health. Iron can only be present in the serum when adequate stores are achieved to make hemoglobin. Hence, testing for serum ferritin levels, comparing them to hair loss and diagnosing chronic anemia can help many people recover quickly.4
5. Thyroid Issues
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism that go undiagnosed for long can lead to severe hair loss, often visible as thinning on the scalp. This hair loss is easily reversible once the underlying thyroid disease is treated with hormone replacement or other therapies. Regrowth does take a while, but it happens.5
6. Protein Deficiency
According to experts all over the world a diet that is lacking in sufficient amounts of protein will cause hair loss. This is the body’s way of storing the existing protein in order to preserve it and thus stop hair growth altogether. A diet that has sufficient amounts of protein in it is good for hair health.6
Protein does not have to be from meat sources but can also be from vegan sources like tofu. Remember protein is a major macronutrient so do not neglect it. Your hairs will thank you for it.
7. Vitamin A Overdose
Consuming too much vitamin A from supplements and other sources can lead to vitamin A overdose and this cause hair loss issues. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the daily intake of vitamin A for adults is 5000 international units (IU) and for kids above the age of 4 is from 2500 to 10000 international units. Beyond this stipulated amount the vitamin A will start to become toxic and affect hair growth negatively.7
If you notice sudden, severe changes in the appearance of the hair on the head and body, make a note of all other symptoms you experience so that the underlying cause can be corrected swiftly.
|↑1||What Is Alopecia Areata? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.|
|↑2||PCOS Symptoms. PCOS Awareness Association.|
|↑3||Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Cancers. American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Does Anemia/Iron Deficiency Cause Hair Loss? Canadian Hair Institute.|
|↑5||Hair Loss and Thyroid Disorders. British Thyroid Foundation.|
|↑6||Guo, Emily L., and Rajani Katta. “Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use.” Dermatology practical & conceptual 7, no. 1 (2017): 1.|
|↑7||Hair Loss. American Academy of Dermatology.|