Certain diseases indeed prevent people from getting a hair transplant. Even though most people believe you cannot get hair restoration surgery with diabetes, it is possible. They can also recover successfully after the procedure. However, many still wonder, is hair transplant safe for diabetics?
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. Those who have diabetes are also likely to have an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid, which can cause 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, the 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’s worsened. The medications used for its treatment can also cause shedding. Lastly, the chronic stress of a chronic condition can also make you lose your hair due to telogen effluvium. So, those who want to restore growth wonder “is hair transplant safe for diabetics?”
Is Hair Transplant Safe For Diabetics?
It is safe for a person with diabetes to get a hair transplant. 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, we take an HbA1C (glycated haemoglobin) test that shows the 3-months average blood glucose levels. It has an upper limit of 6. If the results are normal, we 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.
Compromised Immunity – 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. These problems make many ask the question, “is hair transplant safe for diabetics?”
Their recovery may indeed take longer than usual because the wounds won’t close up in time. Also, they may have to face more difficulties along the way, but they can safely get the surgery. The surgeon will provide you with medications and aftercare instructions accordingly.
Common Problems Diabetes Patients Experience During Recovery
While the answer to “is hair transplant safe for diabetics” is yes, they should be aware of the possible complications that they can experience after the surgery. This way, they’ll be better prepared for it.
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.
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. The constant wound healing can leave you with deeper scars. Again, you should discuss this possibility with your surgeon.
Aftercare Do’s and Don’ts for People with Diabetes
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 will 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. Following this instruction is important for the answer to “is hair transplant safe for diabetics” to be in the affirmative.
Is hair transplant safe for diabetics? Yes, they should be able to get it safely. They should discuss any risks with the surgeon before the surgery. You also need to keep in mind that every patient is unique. In general, the recovery period of a person with diabetes is longer. It’s important that you follow the aftercare instructions to get the results that you want.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.