Can Hair Loss Be A Symptom Of An Underlying Disease?

Yes, hair loss can be a symptom of a disease. It is not surprising that the changes in the structure of hair follicle or hair growth can be considered as a clinical sign of underlying abnormalities. A number of factors are involved in hair loss, including genetic factors, diet, endocrine abnormalities, drug intake and systemic illness. The hair follicle is a continuously remodeling and regenerating organ that undergoes various phases and its hairshaft is controlled by various factors including hormones, growth factor, cytokines, and neuropeptides. About 90% of the total hair on the scalp is in the anagen or growing phase and about 10% of the hair is in a resting phase or catagen phase.

1. Lupus erythematosus

Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system of the body attacks the healthy cells of the body and as a result, it attacks lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, brain, skin, and joints. Skin and joints are the most attacked areas of the body and the symptoms of this disease may vary from person to person. Some of the symptoms that are mostly experienced by a suffering person include joint pain, swelling on the hands and feet, sores, skin rashes, and hair loss. Lupus erythematosus has been subdivided into acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus and discoid lupus erythematosus. The skin lesion of lupus erythematosus on the scalp is known as discoid lupus erythematosus. Many patients suffering from lupus erythematosus experiences hair fall and in medical terms, it is known as alopecia. Hair fall that is related to lupus causes- hair that falls out in clump, thinning of hair and change in hair texture. It is important to know that lupus effect is not limited to scalp hair but it also affects beards, eyebrows, and eyelashes.  

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2. Thyroid disorder

Thyroid disorders are quite common among people worldwide. Thyroid disorders are the disorders related to the thyroid gland which is located at the base of the neck and releases hormones. The thyroid gland secretes two hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine and these hormones controls metabolism of the organs of the body. Thyroid hormones play an important role in the human body and hence any abnormalities with the secretion of these hormones cause thyroid disorders. Also, thyroid abnormalities are often associated with changes in the hair follicle and its functioning and it has been observed that people suffering from thyroid disorders experience hair problems. Thyroid disorders are of two types, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism in a condition in which the thyroid gland produces more than required thyroid hormone and hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amount of thyroid hormone.  Loss of scalp hair follicles, body hair, and eyebrows can be a sign of hyperthyroidism. Hair follicles of a hyperthyroid person produce thinner, brittle and greasy hair. Also, numerous studies claims that early greying of hair can be associated with the autoimmune disease.

3. Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a lifelong illness which is characterized by the excessive blood glucose in the bloodstream that results from the deficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas and plays an important role in regulating the blood glucose level. Development of diabetes significantly increases the rate of hair loss and the loss does not appear to follow the normal pattern of hair loss. In case of uncontrolled diabetes, it can lead to diffuse hair loss.  Diabetes or the high blood sugar level causes poor blood circulation that affects the ability of hair follicles to function properly. The follicle is unable to produce a new strand and the old strand dies and falls off. Also, the drugs that are advised to a diabetic person often interrupts with the normal cycle of the hair growth and causes hair fall and thinning. It is commonly observed that diabetics have thin hair as compared to the hair of non-diabetics and this because the hair shaft of the diabetics is significantly reduced.

4. Depression

Depression is not just sadness, it is much more than that. It is one of the most common disorder that can be mild or can be serious. Severe depression can be psychotic and accompanied by hallucinations and delusions. Worldwide, it has become the major cause of disability and deaths/suicide. It is a mental disorder that can be characterized as depressed mood, loss of interest, low energy, feeling of guilt, anxiety, and disturbed sleep. Depression affects each person differently and the symptoms can also vary from person to person but one symptom that is quite common in all is hair fall or hair loss. Tension, stress, and depression all are associated with the hair fall. People suffering from tension experiences the high level of hair fall.    



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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.