hair-loss-diabetes
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Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Fact-checked by Aditya Nar, B.Pharm, MSc. Public Health and Health Economics

Hairfall is not uncommon these days. Your lifestyle and eating habits along with external factors such as the pollution all contribute to the number of hair strands you see on your hairbrush every day. You’re probably already aware of these common causes of hair loss. But you did you know that having high levels of blood sugar can also cause your luscious locks to fall off?

What’s the connection between diabetes and hair?

When you have diabetes, your body is not able to produce enough insulin, OR it is not able to use the insulin to its best capacity, OR it could be a case of both.

When you eat something, your body uses the sugar content present in the food and helps convert it into energy. When you do not have enough insulin, or when your body is not able to use the insulin properly, your body is not able to transport the sugar to the right places. This leads to a buildup of sugar in your blood.

Insulin is a hormone that helps to move the sugar from various food items that you eat and transfers them from your bloodstream to your cells. Once the sugar reaches the cells, it is either stored there for later use, or used up as energy.

When you have excess sugar stored in your blood, it can damage various organs in the body, such as the eyes, kidneys and even nerves. In many cases, it can also cause damage to the blood vessels.

Blood vessels help to carry oxygen to various parts of your body, including to the organs and tissues. But when these blood vessels are damaged, parts of your body are deprived of the required amount of oxygen. Hair follicles being one of them. As a result,  the hair follicles do not receive the adequate amount of oxygen they need for proper hair growth. This can interfere with your regular hair growth and also damage the existing hair follicle, leading to a hair fall. [1]

Diabetes and other health concerns leading to the hair fall

In many cases, those who have diabetes may also be prone to a condition known as alopecia areata [2]. This is a condition in which your immune system starts attacking your hair follicles and can cause the hair to fall off in patches. It is a type of autoimmune disease in which the hair falls out in clumps, unlike a few strands at a time, resulting in visible bald patches [3]. While alopecia areata will not cause complete hair fall, it prevents new hair from growing.

Diabetes also interferes with your regular hair cycle. Your hair usually goes through three phases of growth:

  • The active phase: Lasts for up to two years where your hair grows to about 1 to 2 cm. per month.
  • The intermediate phase: This is the phase between the active and the resting phase, where the hair is not growing or falling off.
  • The resting phase: Lasts for about 100 days. After this, some of the hair may fall off naturally, whether you are diabetic or not.

In case of diabetes, the rate at which your hair grows can significantly slow down. Also, you may experience more hair fall after the resting phase as compared to those who do not have diabetes. However, adopting a few changes in your habits and lifestyle can help you prevent hair loss when you are a diabetic.

2 tips to prevent hair fall due to diabetes

You can keep your hair healthy and gorgeous even if you have diabetes. The right type of diet and some lifestyle tips/modifications and tricks can help you prevent hair loss and improve the health of your hair too.

Here are two steps that can help you prevent hair loss due to diabetes:

  1. Eat biotic rich foods. Biotin is a type of vitamin and is part of the vitamin B family. It is also known as vitamin H. Biotin mainly helps to convert some types of nutrients into energy, and is important for the health of your hair and skin [4]. Some rich food sources of biotin include eggs, sweet potatoes, oats and almonds.
  2. It is a good idea to consult your doctor and check if you need a biotin supplement, especially if you’re still experiencing hair loss. Using a biotin supplement along with eating biotin-rich foods can lower your hair loss [5]. It can also improve the glycemic index (GI) score without causing any side effects [6].

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

References:

[1] Zubair S, Mujtaba G. Hair – a mirror of diabetes-Review Article; Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists 2009; 19: 31-33, DOI: If available. Link: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.620.1471&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

[2] Taniyama M, Kushima K, Ban Y, Kaihara M, Nagakura H, Sekita S, Katagiri T, Sueki H. Simultaneous development of insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and alopecia areata universalis. Am J Med Sci. 1991 Apr;301(4):269-71. PubMed PMID:2012115.

[3] Healthline, Autumn Rivers and Jacquelyn Cafasso; Alopecia Areata; Retrieved on 03.10.2017: Link: https://www.healthline.com/health/alopecia-areata#symptoms2

[4] Zempleni J, Hassan YI, Wijeratne SS. Biotin and biotinidase deficiency. Expert review of endocrinology & metabolism. 2008;3(6):715-724. doi:10.1586/17446651.3.6.715.

[5] Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Shannon Famenini and Carolyn Goh MD, Evidence for Supplemental Treatments in Androgenetic Alopecia; July 2014 | Volume 13 | Issue 7 | Original Article | 809 | Copyright © 2014; Link:  http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0809X#close

[6] Hemmati M, Babaei H, Abdolsalehei M. Survey of the Effect of Biotin on Glycemic Control and Plasma Lipid Concentrations in Type 1 Diabetic Patients in Kermanshah in Iran (2008-2009). Oman Medical Journal. 2013;28(3):195-198. doi:10.5001/omj.2013.53.

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