Hair Loss and Diabetes- Relation Between Diabetes And Hair Loss

Our hair is our crowning glory, and it is upsetting to see it fall away when one is diagnosed with an underlying chronic disease like diabetes. 

One is said to be diabetic when an abnormal surge in the blood sugar levels is detected in his bloodstream. Our pancreas secretes a hormone called ‘insulin’ that helps to regulate blood glucose levels; and when it goes kaput, sugar levels increase in one’s blood, leading to diabetes.

Hair Loss and Diabetes- Relation Between Diabetes And Hair Loss

The sugar in the food we take is converted to energy by insulin. Excess and unused sugar, however, may get stored over time when the body is deficient in insulin. This results in increased blood sugar levels in blood vessels that eventually damage several body organs, including the hair follicles (structures responsible for healthy hair growth), leading to hair loss.

Uncontrolled and untreated diabetes leads to hair thinning and loss, as it affects the normal hair growth cycle and prevents new hair from forming.

Hair Loss and Diabetes- Relation Between Diabetes And Hair Loss

Signs of ‘alopecia areata’ or diabetes-induced hair fall: 

You should know when you need to get your blood sugar levels tested when you have been experiencing scalp patchiness resulting from recurrent hair fall, alongside frequent urination, excessive fatigue without any reason, troubled vision, weight loss, shooting pain in the arms and feet, and dry skin. 

Typically, ‘alopecia areata’ is a condition where the body’s own weakened immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy hair follicles. Diabetic patients are more predisposed to developing ‘alopecia areata’.

More commonly, the hair will not grow back immediately in the case of ‘alopecia areata’, and even if it does, the growth rate is extremely slow. Hair fall is also not limited to the scalp alone but is more generalized. One may notice hair loss even in armpits, pubic region, arms, legs, eyelashes, face (beard in men), or eyebrows.

The presence of excessive sugar in blood damages blood vessels restricting blood flow, also leading to oxygen deprivation. Hair follicles get negatively impacted due to this deficiency, leading to alarming hair fall.

Treatment

Diabetic patients may take respite in the fact that much of the hair patchiness and loss could be reversible with lifestyle modification and proper diabetes management. 

One must take recourse to the following to manage an optimum blood sugar level, as also to promote hair growth in bald spots:

  • One should periodically monitor his blood glucose levels, especially after 40 years.
  • Sedentary lifestyle should be ditched in favour of an active and healthier one; brisk walks, swimming, yoga, pranayam, and mild aerobic exercises may be done exclusively, or in combination. Exercise improves blood circulation in all parts of the body, including hair follicles. Additionally, it helps to stabilize one’s blood sugar levels.
  •  Known stressors should be eliminated. Prolonged physical and emotional exertion can exacerbate both diabetes and associated hair fall.
  • Mindful and nutritious diet rich in (recommended portions of) protein, non-fat dairy, grains, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, etc. 
  • Biotin is known to retard hair loss and assists in regrowth of fallen hair. Peanuts, almonds, eggs, oats, onions, sweet potato, yeast, etc are biotin-rich natural food supplements. B vitamins, zinc and iron are equally required in correct traces for balding hair. People may take synthetic biotin supplements but with a proper prescription. Biotin needs may vary in individuals, and too much biotin is also not advised.  Correct quantity must be present in the body to assist hair growth. 
  • Treatment of bald spots with tropical medication like Minoxidil lotion may not be long term. However, men and women may still try addressing their hair problem with it after duly following the instructions on the cover.
  • Some dermatologists recommend Finasteride to men; however, the drug has still not been approved for use by women. Steroid injections, tablets, or oral immunosuppressants like methotrexate may be given to treat baldness, but these medications are never without risks of side effects.  
  • Alternatively, one may try aromatherapy; acupuncture; hair treatment with lavender/coconut/jojoba/olive/castor oil massages. However, studies are not conclusive to prove yet that alternative treatments definitely work to treat damaged hair follicles due to diabetes. 

Despite the best of hair treatments and a robust diabetes management plan in place, one may still suffer hair patchiness and balding, because every individual case is different, and respond to treatment would also, by that accord, be different. It is safest to go by the expert recommendations of a practicing doctor and not fall for quacks or indiscriminate use of the over-the-counter drugs to treat diabetes-induced hair fall.

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