Hormones take the blame for a lot of things that go wrong in a person’s life. When you’re feeling a little less like yourself, you can blame your hormones. When a teen is going through puberty, people often point to changing hormone levels as a way to explain the teen’s behavior. You can add another thing to the list of problems hormones can cause: hair loss.
Several hormones can trigger hair loss in both men and women if there is too much or too little of it. While in some cases, getting your hormone levels under control will be enough to bring an end to and reverse the hair loss. For others, hair restoration surgery is your best bet for getting a full head of hair again.
The thyroid gland produces two hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, also called T4 and T3, or collectively, thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism, a condition in which a person produces too much thyroid hormone, and hypothyroidism, when a person produces too little hormone, can both cause hair loss.
The hair loss related to an issue with the thyroid gland can occur all over the body, it’s not just limited to the head. Usually, hair loss isn’t the only symptom of a thyroid problem. Common signs of hyperthyroidism include unexplained weight loss, sleeplessness and hand tremors. Common signs of hypothyroidism include weight gain, memory problems and tiredness. The treatment for hyperthyroidism can slow down the production of hormones enough that it triggers hypothyroidism. In that case, it can be difficult to tell if the hair loss is due to too much hormone or not enough.
While it was once thought high levels of testosterone were to blame for hair loss, it turns out that DHT is the hormone responsible for both male and female pattern baldness. The hormone comes from testosterone and is created with the help of an enzyme, type II 5-alpha-reductase, found in the oil of the hair follicles.
DHT is responsible for a process called miniaturization, during which the hair follicles become smaller and smaller, until the hair is lost. When more and more of a person’s hair follicles are miniaturized, the more hair loss he or she will experience. Blocking the production of the enzyme that helps produce DHT is one way to prevent hair loss. Another option is to transplant hair not affected by DHT into the balding area. Typically, hair on the sides and back of the head isn’t affected by DHT, while the hair on the top of the scalp is.
If you suspect that your hair loss is due to male or female pattern baldness, a hair restoration specialist can help diagnose the cause. To determine if DHT is playing a part in your hair loss or not, the doctor will look closely at the scalp, often using a tool known as a densitometer. The doctor will be able to tell if the hair follicles have miniaturized and, if they have, by how much.
The female hormone, estrogen, plays a part in keeping your hair thick and healthy. A spike in levels of estrogen is often connected to more voluminous hair growth. That’s why some women see an improvement in the thickness and amount of their hair while they are pregnant.
But, a drop in estrogen levels in women can then trigger hair loss. Declining levels of the hormone that occur during menopause are often to blame for the thinning hair menopausal women experience. It’s also sometimes responsible for excess shedding after childbirth. Once a woman’s estrogen levels return to normal, the extra hair she gained during pregnancy falls out. In some cases, though, post-pregnancy shedding can be due to telogen effluvium, or hair loss caused by a shock to the system.
An imbalance of hormones, such as too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone, can also be responsible for hair loss. A woman can get estrogen in her system from a number of sources, including certain foods, such as soy, as well as environmental factors, such as certain plastics.
Since both too much and too little estrogen plays a part in thinning hair, if a woman thinks the hormone has any part to play when it comes to her hair loss, she should get tested by a doctor. A blood test can determine her hormone levels and let her and her surgeon know the best way to proceed.
Dr. Kyle Choe is a hair restoration specialist in Virginia Beach. Find out more about the role your hormones might be playing in your hair loss and what your options are by calling (757) 389-5850 for a consultation today.