Connecting Diabetes to Hair Loss

It doesn't get mentioned very often, but one side effect of diabetes is an increased risk of alopecia, or hair loss. It can begin when the disease begins, and it can also be a side effect of diabetic medication.

Keep in mind that our hair has its own growth cycle. Most of the time, our hair is in a growth phase known as anagen, although a minority percentage of it is in a resting phase called telogen. Being ill, being under lots of stress, or enduring hormonal ups and downs can direct a greater percentage of our hair to stay in the telogen or resting phase. The consequence is known as telogen effluvium, or thinning hair.

The possible causes of why a person's hair may begin to thin or fall out from diabetes include the following:

Circulation Problems
When small blood vessels are damaged, the amount of oxygen and nutrients capable of being delivered to the body's extremities, such as the scalp (and hands and feet, of course) becomes grossly limited. Consequently, undernourished hair follicles can become weak, causing the hair to become loose and easily fall out. This is a temporary situation if dealt with; it can become a permanent one if not.

Hormonal Imbalance
When hormones are in a state of imbalance, they can affect hair growth. Pregnant women and women in menopause sometimes experience hair loss due to hormonal imbalance, and the same thing can happen to diabetics, which can cause imbalances in the body's production of hormones.

Compromised Immune Response
Diabetes can compromise the immune system's response to bacterial or viral infection. Anyone with a compromised immune system is susceptible to all manner of health problems. To that end, conditions that affect the scalp, that cannot be fought off with a weakened immune system, can result in hair loss, generally in patches of hair.

Slow Cell Rejuvenation
Diabetes as a disease can slow down the body's cell regeneration time. This slowing down can cause problems with the cycle of hair growth. One potential outcome here is what was mentioned at the outset of this article, that of telogen effluvium.

Photo: Fox News