Hair loss in older people is a common issue — 70 per cent of men experience thinning to some degree by the age of 50.
While it’s normal to shed a certain amount of hair every day, if you have an underactive or overactive thyroid you may experience hair loss more than others, Dr Russell Knudsen, hair transplant surgeon and founder of The Knudsen Clinic, tells Starts at 60.
He says thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) – have an important role in hair follicle development. When the normal production of thyroid hormones is disrupted, it can shock the system into a state of telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a temporary hair loss disorder where the hair roots enter the resting stage of the hair cycle too early, resulting in excess shedding and noticeable thinning.
On average, people lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands of hair per day.
But, according to Knudsen, people with telogen effluvium can pull out their hair in handfuls. If you run a brush through your hair and big chunks come out, he says there’s a possibility that thyroid issues could be the culprit.
“I’ve seen patients who went from having a full head of hair to being almost bald in just a few months,” he explains.
However, it’s important to note that there are a wide range of other conditions that can cause hair loss, and more often than not it comes down to genetics.
Treatment for thyroid-related hair loss usually involves addressing the thyroid problem. Once hormone levels are stabilised and in the normal range, the loss will slow down and eventually stop, though it may take several months for the hair to grow back.
“If you are experiencing hair loss, get to your doctor or a hair loss expert as soon as you can,” Knudsen advises. “That way you can start to work on understanding what’s causing the hair loss and identify some potential solutions.”
Knudsen warns hair loss isn’t the only symptom of an underactive or overactive thyroid. Other common symptoms include fatigue, constipation, dry skin, weight gain or loss, irritation and muscle weakness.
“Thyroids are key to maintaining a healthy weight, energy level and body temperature,” he explains. “A [variety] of serious problems can arise from having an overactive or underactive thyroid.”
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