Addison’s And Hair Loss

Addison’s – most commonly caused by autoimmune damage to the adrenal glands – can cause hair loss on the scalp and body. And there are different ways in which it may do that. 

For one, Addison affects the production of the steroid hormones: aldosterone and cortisol. However, it’s not just this hormonal fluctuation that causes hair loss. Addison’s can also have an indirect impact on your hair follicles, which can affect their growth. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. However, hormone replacement (for life) can help with the management of its symptoms. There are anecdotal reports of people growing their hair back after starting treatment. But this may not always be the case. 

In this guide, you can learn more about what causes Addison’s hair loss and what you can do about it. 

Can Addison Cause Hair Loss?

You may experience hair loss due to Addison’s because of hormonal imbalance, sex hormone deficiency, poor nutrition, and other autoimmune conditions. 

Addison’s doesn’t just affect the hair on your scalp and body, it also has other symptoms, such as: 

  • Lethargy 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Weight loss 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Craving salty foods
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

And these symptoms can indirectly end up contributing to your hair loss. For instance, if you just consider diarrhoea, its chronic form can put you at an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies. In such a scenario, your hair may end up suffering because it’s not as important as other vital organs. 

However, that’s just one way in which the effects of Addison’s can be felt in different parts of the body. Both cortisol and aldosterone play very important roles.

Adrenal glands
Adrenal glands are small triangular-shaped glands that are present on top of both kidneys. They are responsible for making steroid hormones.

Cortisol is involved in the body’s immune response, metabolism and stress response. Aldosterone, on the other hand, regulates the body’s salt and water content. 

As a result of Addison’s, a reduction in the levels of these hormones will have serious consequences (unless treated). A small part of this is hair loss.

How Does Addison’s Cause Hair Loss?

Addison’s might cause hair loss due to one or more of the following: 

Hormonal Imbalance

Since the body’s immune system damages the adrenal glands, they’re not able to produce enough cortisol and aldosterone (adrenal insufficiency). 

This results in a hormonal imbalance, which can shock the system. And this can, in turn, lead to a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium results in excessive diffuse (all over the scalp) hair loss. It can be triggered by physical and emotional stressors

So, even the stress of your condition can cause this type of hair loss. And it should be noted that Addison’s can also cause depression, which has also been (indirectly) linked to hair loss. 

Low Levels Of Sex Hormones 

In addition to ovaries, in women, the adrenal glands also produce female sex hormones (both estrogen and progesterone). 

Sex hormones are responsible for secondary sexual characteristics, such as hair growth in the underarms and pubic region.

However, because Addison’s can cause sex hormone deficiency in women, it can cause the loss of hair in the pubes and armpits. It doesn’t have much of an effect on men. 

Nutritional Issues  

As mentioned above, Addison’s disease can cause nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pain, and loss of appetite, which may affect your nutritional intake.

Healthy diet

If you already have a deficiency, these symptoms can worsen it. And nutritional deficiencies can also affect the growth and development of your hair. This can also induce telogen effluvium (due to the system shock). 

According to MedlinePlus, Addison’s cause a low level of red blood cells, resulting in anaemia. As a result, your hair might not be able to get sufficient oxygen, which can also affect its growth. 

Other Autoimmune Conditions 

Autoimmune diseases can run together (occurring at the same time). And that can also indirectly cause hair loss. 

For instance, with Addison’s, it’s possible to have vitiligo, diabetes, thyroid disease, or alopecia areata. 

Vitiligo doesn’t cause hair loss, but diabetes, thyroid disease, and alopecia areata can. Alopecia areata, in particular, causes patchy hair loss on the scalp. But in more severe forms, it can cause hair loss on the entire body (alopecia universalis). 

What Is Addison’s Hair Loss Treatment?

The treatment for Addison itself might help you with the hair loss resulting from it. 

Treatment for Addison involves replacing the missing cortisol and aldosterone for life. Their synthetic forms are taken orally. 

Hormonal balance

For aldosterone, the synthetic alternative is fludrocortisone. And for cortisol, it’s hydrocortisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone. 

Your doctor will prescribe you a particular dose (which can vary) depending on your health condition. 

Here, it should also be noted that hair loss may occur as a side effect of drugs like prednisolone. 

If you’re experiencing hair loss while on medication, make sure to consult your doctor first. Do not discontinue it without talking to your doctor. 

Conclusion

Addison’s disease can be quite difficult to live with. It affects both the physical and mental health of the individual, and both of them can cause hair loss (among other things). 

With treatment, it might be possible for you to grow your hair back. But in any case, you should try to be very gentle with your hair so that you don’t worsen the hair loss. 

If you’re experiencing abnormal shedding, make sure to consult an experienced medical professional. Hair loss can occur due to different reasons. With accurate diagnosis, you can have a more effective treatment plan.

Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Cagla Yuksel.

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