Hair loss is a symptom of diabetes, and it can occur due to various reasons.
The causes of diabetes hair loss can be anything from hormonal imbalances, high blood sugar and treatment drugs to autoimmune disorders.
Even though this type of hair loss can be reversed, you should get the right treatment to manage your blood sugar levels.
Our guide will explain the symptoms, causes and treatments of hair loss diabetes, and whether you can get a hair transplant with it.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder.
According to the World Health Organization, “the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. It occurs due to:
- insufficient insulin production
- insensitivity to insulin
Normally, the carbohydrates in food are broken down into glucose, which is then absorbed into the body. The hormone insulin regulates the blood glucose level. Any abnormality in its production or consumption results in a spike in the blood sugar level.
High blood glucose levels have long-term effects on the body. It can cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels, feet, kidneys, eyes, and legs, among other organs of the body. It has the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Feeling thirstier
- Slower wound healing
- Numb or tingling hands and feet
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections and bruising
Your doctor will perform tests to check your blood glucose levels before making an accurate diagnosis.
Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Unfortunately, diabetes can cause hair loss.
Diabetes patients are likely to have an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. This can be one of the causes of diabetes hair loss.
In addition, alopecia areata is also commonly associated with it.
This makes the immune cells attack healthy hair follicles, which leads to the formation of circular, bald patches on the scalp. In some cases, hair loss from it can be severe and permanent.
Other than that, the high blood sugar level also causes poor blood circulation, which doesn’t allow normal hair growth to take place.
And when the sugar’s not being used by cells for growth and development, this problem is worsened. The medications used for its treatment (like metformin) can also cause shedding.
Lastly, the chronic stress of a chronic condition can also make you lose your hair due to telogen effluvium.
Keep in mind that diabetes hair loss can occur on the scalp as well as the body. And in addition to hair loss, your hair growth also slows down.
What Type Of Diabetes Causes Hair Loss?
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause hair loss in different ways.
Can Type 1 Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Diabetes type 1 occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells, so the pancreas is not able to produce insulin.
Since it’s autoimmune, type 1 diabetes is most likely to cause hair loss due to alopecia areata.
Moreover, type 1 diabetes increases the risk of autoimmune thyroid disorder, which can also cause hair loss.
Other than that, pernicious anaemia – an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack cells in the stomach lining and cause B-12 deficiency – is also common in type 1 diabetes patients. That can also lead to hair loss.
One case report published in Pediatric Blood & Cancer described the case of a 16-year-old male who developed alopecia areata 9 years after being diagnosed with pernicious anaemia.
Can Type 2 Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?
Type 2, the most common type of diabetes, occurs when the body’s cells are unable to use insulin normally. They become insulin resistant.
As a result, the blood sugar level increases. And in response to that, the pancreas produces even more insulin.
However, there comes a time when the pancreas is unable to meet the increased demand (cells are damaged). And the blood sugar stays high.
One of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes is hair loss.
It leads to poor blood circulation due to damage to the blood vessels. As a result, less oxygen and nutrients get to the hair follicles on the scalp, which can affect their natural growth.
Additionally, a study published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology reported a link between type 2 diabetes and hair loss in the central scalp in African American women.
High blood sugar can also cause hormonal imbalances.
How To Stop Hair Loss From Diabetes
You may be able to stop and even prevent hair loss from diabetes by managing your blood sugar level. It should be around 80 to 130 mg/dL before you eat something and less than 180 mg/dL after you’ve had something to eat.
To manage it, it’s important to eat healthy foods at regular times. Staying hydrated (with water) can also help lower your blood sugar.
You should also consider exercising and getting quality sleep for this. Moreover, you should monitor and check your sugar levels multiple times a day (as the doctor recommends).
Will Hair Loss From Diabetes Grow Back?
Usually, diabetes hair loss grows back. However, it happens once you start getting treatment for it.
It includes controlling the levels of sugar in your blood. And to further promote growth, your doctor might recommend medications like steroids, minoxidil, finasteride, and anthralin. Platelet-rich plasma or PRP injections can also help stimulate hair growth.
You should also make sure to have a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Can Diabetes Hair Loss Be Reversed?
Diabetes hair loss can be reversed with the right medications and sugar level management.
However, keep in mind that some medications like metformin, which are used to control high blood sugar, can also end up causing hair loss.
If you’re experiencing this, you shouldn’t stop this medication on your own. Make sure to talk to your doctor and they can prepare an alternative treatment plan for you.
Can Hair Loss Be A Sign Of Diabetes?
Hair loss can be a sign of diabetes.
According to research published in Medical Hypotheses, hair follicle damage is an early marker for type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, a case study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism reported hair loss as an indicator of moderate to severe diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage outside of the brain and spinal cord).
Still, hair loss isn’t the only sign of diabetes. It can occur due to many reasons, one of which is diabetes.
So, if you’re experiencing hair loss, make sure to get in touch with a medical professional.
Is Hair Transplant Safe For Diabetics?
It is safe for a person with diabetes to get a hair transplant in Istanbul. However, the patient should continue their routine treatment before and after the surgery. It’s important that blood glucose levels are regulated.
Before the procedure, the medical team takes an HbA1C (glycated haemoglobin) test that shows the 3-month average blood glucose levels. It has an upper limit of 6.
If the results are normal, they proceed with the hair transplant. In case a complication arises during the surgery, it can be taken care of in the emergency department.
Keep in mind it can take longer for people with diabetes to see the results of the hair transplant because of delayed wound healing. It is important for them to take extra precautions during the recovery process.
That’s because the surgery requires the surgeon to make micro puncture wounds in the back and sides of the scalp.
In addition, incisions are made in the balding regions for the implantation of the grafts. Normally, these wounds close up and heal in two weeks (although the pigmentation takes a year to fade).
However, this is delayed in people with diabetes because of the following reasons:
Poor Blood Circulation
Because of high blood sugar levels, the blood doesn’t move as quickly, so the newly transplanted hair will not receive adequate amounts of nutrients and oxygen.
This also happens because of the elasticity of the vessels, which have become narrower over time.
Diabetes negatively impacts the functioning of the immune cells. They respond to the invasion of foreign microorganisms more slowly. This puts people with diabetes at a higher risk of infections.
There are other reasons why wound healing doesn’t take place normally in diabetes. Because of these things, a person with diabetes may have difficulty recovering.
Diabetes Patients After Hair Transplant
Diabetes patients can experience the following after their transplantation surgery:
A hair transplant can take anywhere between 6 and 8 hours. The duration of the surgery and the surgery itself can be quite draining.
Since people with diabetes already struggle with weakness and fatigue due to the non-utilization of blood sugar, a hair transplant can leave them exhausted.
Therefore, it’s best if you take a few days off (as advised by the surgeon) and rest as much as you can.
Many people with diabetes suffer from chronic pain due to “diabetic neuropathy,” which is sometimes painful enough to disrupt normal functioning.
According to Mayo Clinic, it can affect as many as 50% of the patients. In addition, it can also cause “increased sensitivity to touch.”
Therefore, you may feel more pain following the surgery (not necessarily in the scalp). Your doctor will prescribe painkillers for you. In any case, you should further discuss with them the ways by which you can manage your pain better.
Bruising is a common side effect of hair transplant surgery. It is nothing to worry about in healthy individuals. It should resolve on its own in some time.
However, in people with diabetes, it will take longer for these bruises to heal because of the poor circulation of blood.
Can Have Infection & Scarring
Since soon after the surgery, you’ll have open wounds on your scalp, which are vulnerable to invasion by pathogens.
Normally this shouldn’t be a problem as long as the immune system is functioning.
However, in diabetes patients, the wound stays open for longer, and the immune system isn’t as strong to fight off infections easily. This can result in a hair transplant infection.
Make sure to get in touch with your doctor if you do notice any of the following signs of infection:
- Increasing pain and swelling
Earlier intervention can help save the transplanted grafts, and you can recover. However, one problem that can occur due to frequent infections is scarring.
Constant wound healing can leave you with deeper scars. Again, you should discuss this possibility with your surgeon.
What Should Diabetic Patients Pay Attention To After Hair Transplantation?
It’s important to remember that what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. Therefore, you shouldn’t compare your recovery with someone else who has gotten a hair transplant with diabetes.
You are encouraged to learn more about their journeys but make sure that you only follow your surgeon’s instructions for complete recovery. This can include the following:
Take Your Medicines
Since pain and infection are a bigger concern for people who have diabetes, they need to take the medicines prescribed for them.
You will be informed by your surgeon how often and for how long you need to take them.
If you don’t take them, your recovery is going to become much harder. In addition, it may be delayed.
Have A Balanced Diet
Whether or not is hair transplant safe for diabetics can depend on your diet. A healthy, balanced diet is important for normal recovery.
People with diabetes should take their meals very regularly before and after the surgery. They do have some dietary restrictions.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), those who have diabetes should only get half of their calories from carbohydrates.
Your dietitian may recommend avoiding foods containing processed sugar, such as:
- Fizzy drinks
- Baked goods
Carbs found in fruits and vegetables are not that problematic, so you may be recommended those in addition to lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods.
Keep in mind that alcohol also contains carbohydrates, which is why you need to be very careful about its intake after surgery.
Overall, you should follow your pre-existing diet plan; your surgeon may recommend some vitamins as additional support.
Nicotine can increase blood glucose levels and result in poor circulation (which is already affected).
For this reason, you need to avoid smoking for some time (as your surgeon advises) after the surgery.
It can permanently damage the transplanted grafts and delay wound healing in the donor area at the back and sides.
So, does diabetes cause hair loss? Yes, it can occur due to hormonal changes, poor blood circulation, and autoimmune disorders, among other things.
While this kind of hair loss is reversible, it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels in control.
And if you’re thinking of getting a hair transplant, it’s also possible. As long as HbA1C (glycated haemoglobin) test during pre-assessment shows under 6% and cardiology specialists approves their condition.
In any case, it’s important that you consult a qualified, board-certified medical professional for your hair loss and diabetes.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr Hassan Soueid.