13 . September . 2019 BY Dr. Sharmishtha Deshpande

Diabetes. A major health problem that is fast approaching epidemic proportions worldwide. It is being referred to as the epidemic of the 21st century! And sadly, extremely widespread in India. We are sure that you know at least one person in your immediate circle who has the condition; if not you, yourself are suffering from it.

The condition comes with a barrage of effects on your body. You become prone to many other conditions on the side. So, as you address the concern at its core, you also need to pay attention to these peripherals. One of the many side-effects of diabetes is hair thinning and in some cases, hair loss.

Now, thanks to its prevalence, there are doctors who specialise in tackling diabetes, exclusive clinics to cater to those who are diabetic, special diets formulated and supplied to patients, a variety of prescription medications mass-produced and even specific yoga classes held to address the concern!

While you have figured who and where to go for controlling diabetes as such, you may be wondering about your hair, that has been consistently thinning or falling through your journey with diabetes. Perhaps this is the reason why many of you have sent us questions on it! While diabetes and related hair loss is very common, it is rarely discussed…

So here we are, once again, with our ‘Ask the Hair Expert’ series; this time to address your queries on hair thinning & hair loss possibly caused by diabetes and how we can help you address the situation.

You asked: “Does diabetes cause hair thinning & hair loss? How can I avoid hair thinning as I handle my diabetes in parallel?”

Here’s the answer from the Hair Experts.
Hair does undergo changes, as does your body when you have diabetes.
Necessary steps if taken under the guidance of a Trichologist can help you protect and maintain healthy hair & scalp, while you work on controlling diabetes.

So, let’s first understand what happens to your hair when you become diabetic, what can be done to maintain your hair against such a concern, and some handy tips on hair care!

What happens to your body when you are diabetic?

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps your body use the sugars/glucose from the food that you eat, as energy. It also helps store it for future use. Insulin is what keeps your blood glucose at ideal levels – not too high, not too low.

When you are diabetic, the pancreas does not produce insulin or produces very little, or your body is not using insulin as effectively as it should be. This causes an increase in blood glucose levels. Over a period of time, such high blood glucose level leads to problems concerning your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves etc. The condition tends to weaken the body’s immunity system on the whole too.

So how does this affect hair?

Diabetes being a major metabolic disorder affects the metabolism of the body, the brunt of which can be seen on hair. The way your body uses consumed food to produce energy and processes it out of your body, impacts physical as well as mental health. When metabolism is disturbed by underlying conditions, such as diabetes, you can see the signs on your skin and hair – dry skin, brittle nails, dry & rough hair prone to breakage. This happens because your body is failing to utilize the micronutrients from the food that you are consuming. A sluggish metabolism impacts your hair’s ability to grow and regenerate.

Further, blood vessels carry the much-needed oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles. As diabetes progresses, it can cause damage to blood vessels and thereby hindering with this process. It can cause poor blood flow and circulation. When the hair follicles don’t get the required oxygen which is normally transported through the blood vessels, they are malnourished. This, in turn, affects the hair growth cycle.

The duration for which the hair stays in each phase of the hair growth cycle is an important factor that is related to your hair’s overall health. Do read our detailed blog on hair anatomy and growth cycle for a clear understanding.

By interrupting the normal hair cycle, diabetes makes your hair prone to falling more or staying in the falling phase for longer than usual. It basically can impair hair growth, stop hair from growing or lead to excessive hair fall.

Telogen Effluvium is very commonly seen in diabetics. This is triggered by the irregularity of the hair growth cycle as discussed above. This is, of course, a reversible condition, provided it’s attended to by a trichologist in time.

This apart, in some cases, diabetes also triggers Alopecia, in which the hair follicles are attacked by the immune system. Studies have shown that people with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop alopecia areata.

Hair thinning is also very common in people with diabetes. It has also been observed that diabetes triggers hormonal changes and this can lead to male or female pattern thinning or androgenic alopecia. As you may know from our earlier blogs, androgenic alopecia is caused by sensitivity to a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone).

DHT can gradually damage the already affected follicles on the scalp in a certain pattern. This leads to the gradual thinning of hair until the follicles completely disappear!

Both MPT and FPT are the most common cause of hair loss. It is progressive and if unattended leads to hair loss that can become irreversible. It needs professional attention and precise ongoing treatment. Do read our blogs on hair loss in men and women, to understand this better.

Hair thinning or loss may also get triggered as a side effect of certain medications used to treat diabetes. For instance, the drug Metformin commonly used in managing diabetes is documented to have hair loss as one of the side effects but is a necessary evil.

You also become prone to fungal and bacterial infections of the scalp, which as with other wounds, take longer to heal if you have diabetes. This can also lead to hair loss. So, regular care of hair can to some extent keep you protected.

Further, hair loss in some is not restricted to just the scalp, but also hands and legs. This indicates poor blood supply and needs medical attention to manage.

Let us, however, clarify that in most cases hair loss or hair thinning due to diabetes is reversible. When the diabetes is brought under control, and timely professional help is sought from a trichologist for your hair, you are well on your way to regaining your crowning glory.

How can you tackle the hair thinning or hair loss?

Consult a Trichologist.

He/She will spend quality time with you to understand your medical case history, including your battle with diabetes, what medications you are under, your daily routine, your lifestyle, eating habits, etc. A detailed analysis of your hair and scalp condition will be done to understand the present condition. A clear diagnosis is then drawn based on both clinical study and discussion, which guides the way forward on treatment. Where needed, screening tests such as the HTMA also prove helpful.

Solutions to tackling hair loss are aplenty now thanks to advancements in the field of trichology. You have pioneers such as RichFeel in India providing a variety of personalised solutions to handle hair thinning and hair loss for long now. Hair fertility treatments are a reality now. So do not hesitate to seek professional help. The sooner you intervene the better you can manage your hair’s health and life.

Here are some basic tips that we recommend to manage your hair, as you tackle diabetes.

Professional medical care for diabetes

Handling the core condition right is key. Ensure that you are on the required track of medication, diet and other daily details, as instructed by your endocrinologist (medical specialist in diabetes).

Manage stress

Diabetes can put you under a lot of stress, physically and mentally. And as you know, stress is the most common cause that aggravates hair and scalp concerns.

Eat right

Much of diabetes control has to do with your diet. Your endocrinologist will guide you on this and you will need to ensure that the food regimen prescribed is followed.
And as you know, your body and hair are what you eat. It is key that your diet (a) controls the blood glucose level from going high, (b) ensures that circulation to your hair follicles is maintained and (c) includes hair foods that will help stimulate your hair growth and prevent hair thinning. Your trichologist will help you plan this right.

Stay hydrated

Drinking adequate water and keeping your hair hydrated is also very important. Dehydration can cause havoc to your diabetic body, and thereby your hair. Keeping your body hydrated is a good way to combat scalp and hair dryness which tends to happen with diabetes.

Exercise regularly

Exercise, regular and appropriate (as guided by your doctor), is said to be the key to lifetime management of diabetes, especially type 2. It can help lower your blood sugar to ideal levels, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disorders that you become prone to as a diabetic, helps with weight management and improves overall well being.
What it does for your hair, in turn, is that it helps stimulate the hair follicles right. This helps in curtailing hair loss and promotes hair growth. It also helps stress management, which has a direct impact on your hair as you know well by now.

Avoid heated styling equipment and products

Thin hair and hair prone to breakage or fall, as triggered by diabetes, can get worse with use of unchecked styling equipment and products. You may have read our blogs on how being addicted to hair trends has its own ill effects on your hair.
With diabetes, as mentioned above, your hair growth cycle is already under stress. Using heated styling equipment and chemical treatments/products will only aggravate the condition. Avoid them.

Haircare @ home

Apart from specific treatment and care, having a regular maintenance regimen can really help. Your trichologist can help you identify the hair care regimen what’s right for you. Wash your hair the right way – use the right oil, in the right frequency, use the right shampoo & conditioner to wash regularly, and when done, towel & air dry your hair, for best results.

Hair supplements

Your nutritional requirements become very important when you are undergoing diabetes treatment. You need to pay more attention to whether your diet is as it should be to keep blood sugar levels under check and whether it is giving you the needed nourishment. Diet & nutrition have a direct impact on your diabetes and your hair.
A trichologist, taking into cognizance your medical condition, will prescribe the right natural hair supplements for you.

Tricho Treatments

Thanks to the growth of Trichology as a science, there are scientific solutions to your hair and scalp problems. Treatments and solutions are now available to tackle hair thinning, hair fall, baldness – both surgical and non-surgical solutions, instant permanent scalp covers, hair colour damage treatment and hair fibres that can camouflage your scalp in 30 seconds!

Our endocrine system influences cell-growth as well as many functions of our glands – all of which have a direct impact on our hair. Your hair is your body’s barometer. When you are physically, and emotionally, healthy, your hair is full of life as well. When you are diabetic, much of this is disturbed and it needs due care and attention. To reiterate, hair thinning and hair loss triggered by diabetes is very much manageable and reversible. Seek timely professional help to tackle it right.

And as we always remind, the way your hair reacts to bodily changes, including medical conditions such as diabetes, varies from person to person. One solution will not fit all. A trichologist is someone who understands all of this, and hence the right person to guide you on this subject.

For more on hair & scalp concerns, and for all things ‘Hair’, do follow our blogs on hair loss, hair care, treatments & solutions, and interesting hair trivia!

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