Friday, January 30

Does diabetes cause hair loss?

  ›     ›   Can diabetes cause hair loss?
Does diabetes cause hair loss?
Yes! Diabetes can cause hair loss.
There are two types of diabetes and one of the common symptom for both the types is hair loss. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not properly control the levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use it properly. Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas.

Type I diabetes

Type I diabetes is insulin dependent and is usually caused by an autoimmune destruction and loss of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Alopecia areata, a disease of hair loss, is again an autoimmune disorder in which the functional hair follicles are targeted by the autoimmune response. The loss is only of functional follicles and the follicle stem cells are not affected. The autoimmune responses though appear to be an specific action on target cells, diffused autoimmune activity on other cell types cannot be ruled out.

Type II diabetes

Type II diabetes is non insulin-dependent disease. It is caused by several physiological factors.
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In Type II diabetes there is loss in sensitivity as well as development of resistance to insulin in the body cells. The physio-hormonal changes brought about by the level of sugar in the blood can impact the health of follicles and disrupt their genetically programmed function.

It is also pertinent to discuss here, even if briefly, the factors responsible for androgenic alopecia, the male-pattern hair loss. Though AR gene is associated with androgenic alopecia, a variety of hormonal, genetic and environmental factors are likely causes of this disorder. Several medical conditions are associated with this type of loss, including disorders of insulin resistance, such as diabetes and obesity.

The diabetes disorder causes several negative physiological conditions such as, endocrine abnormalities, inadequate blood circulation, high blood sugar levels, weakened immune system and physical and mental stress.

Endocrine abnormalities

Diabetes affected are likely to have issues with thyroid glands. Malfunctioning thyroid can lead to alopecia. The androgenic hormone dihydrotestosterone is important for regulating follicular function and growth. The androgenic alopecia is related to increased activity of androgen receptors in hair follicles. The increased blood sugar levels affects the production of dihydrotestosterone, the activity of androgen receptors proteins and the loss of function of follicles.

Inadequate blood circulation

Diabetes compromises blood circulation and reduces blood supply to skin. The tissues get starved of nutrients and oxygen. In such circumstances anagen growth phase of the follicles gets interrupted and they enter into resting telogen phase. The increase in the number of follicles in the resting phase causes excessive hair loss.

Weakened immune system

Individuals suffering from diabetes have compromised immune system and poor circulation is one of the causes. Further patients with diabetes are prone to bacterial and fungal infections. These infections can inhibit normal follicular processes leading to excessive hair loss.

Physical and mental stress

Diabetics may experience stress and anxiety while making the disorder a part of their life. Diabetes is a lifestyle changing disease. Its treatment requires many restrictions in the type and quantity of food consumed. Further, continuous medication and rigid daily routine can be very stressful for the mind and body. Mental and physical stress is known to cause hair loss.

Diabetics must closely monitor their health to keep the sugar levels under control. Taking prescribed medications followed by diet control and sufficient exercise can stall many health complications, including alopecia. Certain diabetes medications are known to cause hair loss in some people.
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Reference:
1.Diabetes Research in Children Network (DirecNet) Study Group, Buckingham B, Beck RW, Tamborlane WV, et al. Continuous glucose monitoring in children with type 1 diabetes. J Pediatr. 2007;151(4):388-93, 393.e1-2.
2.Lee HJ, Chapa D, Kao CW, Jones D, Kapustin J, Smith J, Krichten C, Donner T, Thomas SA, Friedmann E. Depression, quality of life, and glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2009;21(4):214-24.
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