While this condition is the specialism of an Endocrinologist, the thyroid plays a large part in the basal metabolic rate and hair growth cycle and as the symptoms of an untreated thyroid condition often present in a trichology consultation, I therefore felt a description prudent.
The thyroid gland is influenced by your brain’s production of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and the subsequent production of thyroid hormones (T4 thyroxine and T3 triiodothyronine) are responsible for many aspects of general health including: weight, depression and energy levels. An undiagnosed thyroid abnormality can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, anxiety, HAIR LOSS, sexual dysfunction, infertility and more. No wonder the thyroid is given the nick name “gland central”.
Some Of The Signs To Look For
Hair Changes hair loss is frequently associated with thyroid problems. This is usually with HYPOTHYROID- underactive thyroid (rather than hyperthyroid -over active thyroid, producing too much of the stated hormones- where hair loss is much less likely). A thyroid that is underactive will be producing too little T3 and or T4 and there are varying degrees of hypothyroid the patient can experience. 80% of the Endocrinologist’s cases of hypothyroid are Hashimoto’s Disease- this can pass undetected for years so completely depends on the patient presenting symptoms early. This can be miss- understood as signs of aging or even the menopause. The patient presenting with this type of hair loss may have many of the following symptoms but always an increase in the amount of hair being shed. Up to a third of the overall density may be lost.
The hair becomes coarse, dry and brittle therefore more likely to break. The outer third of the eyebrow hair may thin or be lost. There are however other possible triggers of this including hormonal changes- Shuna Hammocks can decipher.
Skin The skin can become very dry and even scaly in patches; this may be on the body or the scalp. The sufferer experiencing this symptom may feel the scalp is rather itchy and rough to the touch. You are advised to wash and condition the hair daily if possible as a matter of good hygiene and routine. The ideal products and treatment for home use also, is designed specifically for you and discussed in consultation.
Bowel problems involving constipation, irritable bowel syndrome is another associated symptom of hypothyroidism. The way in which various vitamins and nutrients are absorbed can be effected by disturbances with the bowel; often this leads to deficiencies which in turn often cause hair loss. It is essential the correct tests are carried out as taking supplements “blindly” can be dangerous if overdosing and “doubling up”, particularly in the case of iron. It’s better to correct as deficiency and follow up with blood tests to monitor absorption rate before then taking a maintenance dose. A subject Shuna is most interested and passionate about.
Menstrual Irregularities periods can be heavier, more frequent and painful. These symptoms also mimic Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and endometriosis- conditions that often present alongside other conditions seen at Sussex Trichology such as Androgen Dependant Alopecia (female pattern hair loss), where genetically pre disposed individuals become sensitive to (mostly) normal levels of circulating levels of androgens- resulting in the thinning on top of the scalp. This condition CAN be controlled; in women there is no need for “accept the reduction in density” this is NOT simply an age related subject! In fact, it can be triggered in women from the age of puberty. Unfortunately there is a tremendous amount of miss information written, particularly on-line, regarding this distressing hair loss condition.
Weight gain, this could be a symptom of under active thyroid or another marker of conditions such as PCO as mentioned above. If a gynaecological condition is suspected, as so often during the hour spent in consultation subjects like this come about, medical referrals can be made on your behalf through Sussex Trichology and the correct diagnostic tests, treatment, contraceptive choices, topical treatment can be discussed and prescribed. I work closely with other specific specialists and have developed, during my 14 years of practice, a good respected professional relationship with.
Diagnostic Tests Required
Some patients attend with blood tests already in hand, others decide to ask their GP on my request to carry these out (referral letters can be supplied following consultation) or perhaps easier still, the blood test can be carried out “in house” as Shuna is a qualified Phlebotomist. The results are then supplied within a few days. These tests should ideally include:
Free T3, T4, Free T4, TSH and Thyroid anti bodies.
You are entitled to a copy of your results, please request that these include the reference ranges as the parameters vary from one laboratory to another.
I hope the reader has found this article useful, in dispelling some of the myths of hair loss associated with thyroid conditions. Whilst a frequently occurring reason for hair loss there are of course many others. How amazing is the function of the thyroid, especially considering this little gland weighs less than 1oz!