December 22, 2010
Question from Houston, Texas, USA:
My hair stylist says people with diabetes lose their hair or it thins out. Why is this? I have not yet experienced hair loss or thinning.
I am not sure that is really true. It is true that when patients are chronically ill and their blood sugars are not well controlled, your body thinks you are doing poorly from a nutritional standpoint and there may be some hair loss. Please concentrate on glucose control and I do not think this will be as big an issue as you currently think.
Additional comments from Dr. David Schwartz:
I presume your stylist is talking about hair loss/thinning to the scalp of the head and not loss of scalp hair in “patches” or “clumps”. I am not aware that hair loss is a common phenomenon in adults with diabetes mellitus. It certainly is not in children.
There are conditions that are commonly associated with diabetes [e.g., thyroid disorders or celiac disease and other “autoimmune diseases” (related to Type 1 diabetes)] which, through a variety of mechanisms, could be associated with hair loss. These conditions are commonly and sometimes routinely screened for on a yearly basis, as they have broader impact on overall health. Certainly, they can be screened for if other symptoms appear.
Frankly, I wonder if your hair stylist is basing the statement on his/her own experience, which, of course, is skewed by his/her job: S/he cuts hair so ALL the customers (thick haired and thin) come to the salon, SOME of whom have diabetes. The question would really be asked of a sample of endocrinologists who see patients with diabetes and then assess how many of those patients have unexpected hair loss. Again, my own experience (but I see children and teens) is NONE have primary hair loss from their diabetes.
I certainly could understand if a person with extremely poor glucose control had hair loss. I performed a quick computerized search of medical articles and could find no “cause and effect” of diabetes and hair loss.
Best of luck and keep YOUR diabetes in control!