Everything you need to know about diabetes and hair loss!
How are diabetes and hair loss related? What can we do to prevent hair loss? These and more questions we try to answer on this site.
An Introduction To Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in human where the amount of glucose in the body is too high because it is not utilised properly. Diabetes is
a result of the pancreas not producing any or enough insulin to get glucose from the blood stream into the body's cells.
It can also be caused by insulin resistance where the amount of insulin in the body remains sufficiently high over a long or extended period of time, which in turn, declines the body's sensitivity to that particular hormone. This renders the insulin produced ineffective so the glucose in the bloodstream is not absorbed and used, leading to accumulation and high sugar levels.
Insulin is the hormone that is produced in the body by the pancreas to utilise carbohydrates. After digestion, food products including sugar are directly absorbed into the bloodstream. Insulin hormone functions to move sugars and glucose from the bloodstream into the blood cells where they may be stored or used as energy after conversion.
Types of diabetes
There are two types of diabetes. Diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2. Diabetes type one is a type where the immune system of the body destroys the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for secreting the hormone insulin. This limits the ability of the body to control blood sugars properly. It is normally diagnosed early during childhood.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas functions well but it does not produce enough insulin required by the body to control blood sugar levels. This type of diabetes is more common and is caused by poor health habits like bad food choices, lack of exercise and being overweight. Both types can be sufficiently managed but type two can often be reversed by practicing a healthier lifestyle and good eating habits.
Hair Loss In Combination With Diabetes
Hair growth is a cyclic process that occurs in three phases. The first phase is the actively growing phase which lasts for about two years. At this phase, hair grows to one or two centimetres each month. The second phase is the resting phase which leads to minimal or no hair growth for about 100 days, then the final phase which is the shedding phase. Hair starts to shed off and new hair follicles prepare for another life cycle. If this cycle is affected in any way, the hair that is shed during the final phase may not regrow right away or at all without treatment.
Reasons for hair loss due to diabetes may vary from time to time. The main reason is Inadequacy or lack of insulin in the body which causes an increase in sugar levels. Build up of sugar in the body may have adverse effects on major organs in the body including the nerves, kidneys, and the eyes. Blood vessels are also affected by this condition. Damaged blood vessels will not be able to sufficiently transport oxygen or other nutrients and chemicals to all parts of the body for nourishment. Hair follicles if not well nourished periodically, will start to deteriorate and misfunction. Lack of oxygen also affects normal hair growth and this may lead to thinning of hair or general hair loss.
Below are some factors which increase hair loss or limit hair growth.
- People with diabetes can be affected by a condition known as alopecia areata. This condition causes the body's immune system to attack hair follicles leading to patches of lost hair on the scalp and other parts of the body like the arms chest or legs.
- Diabetes slows down normal functions of the body leading to physical stress. The impact of the disease on body organs and body functions may disrupt the normal hair growth or the hair growth cycle leading to slow hair growth and hair loss.
- People with diabetes are frequently diagnosed with thyroid disease. This disease is known to contribute to hair loss in human beings so it may be a major cause of thinning hair.
- Emotional stress associated with living with a chronic illness may be another factor. Emotional stress has negative effects on the body and normal functioning of body organs which may lead to hair loss and retarded hair growth.
- Infections from other external illnesses or conditions. High sugar levels in the blood will automatically affect our bodies' immune system making us more vulnerable to other infections. These infections may disrupt normal body functions, hair growth included.
- Hormonal imbalance and fluctuating hormone levels in the body may affect follicle regeneration and normal follicle functioning. This will lead to hair thinning and hair loss over time.
- Hair loss is a sign of poor blood flow. Affected blood vessels in our circulatory system may limit blood flow to some regions of the body leading to hair loss in the affected parts.
Finally, the type of medication and treatment you use to control your sugar levels may have some side effects on the rate of hair growth and in some instances lead to hair loss.
Now the important question : What can I do to prevent hair loss caused by diabetes?
Once you begin treatment for diabetes, your hormones will start working normally again and the effects on hair and hair loss will be reduced.
If your hair loss is generally attributed to diabetes control, you may need to adjust your diet, lifestyle or your medication, so that you may get better control of your blood sugar levels. But first, you'll need to talk to your doctor to establish the main cause of your hair loss.
Your dermatologist may prescribe drugs that you can rub on your scalp area or other areas where you experience hair loss. Some drugs can also be taken orally to regrow or replenish lost hair.
Biotin is a vitamin found in natural foods like peanuts and eggs. Some evidence indicates that when taken orally, biotin supplements could slow hair loss. You can also choose to wear wigs to cover some of your scalp patches during treatment.
To better manage blood sugar levels, make sure you engage in daily exercise and eat healthy meals. As long as you have a balanced diet with a periodic fitness schedule, it will help bring down sugar levels and encourage oxygendelivery to all parts of your body's extremities.