Living with diabetes means dealing with a lot more than just blood sugar. Many people know about its effects on our health, but what about our hair? Can diabetes potentially lead to hair loss?

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and here we’ll explore the link between diabetes and hair loss. You will also discover the different treatment options available.

Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Hair Loss

The relationship between diabetes and hair loss involves various biological mechanisms. When it isn’t adequately controlled, diabetes can play havoc on the body’s microvascular system. This in turn can affect blood flow to different organs, including the scalp. Poor circulation to the scalp can deprive hair follicles of essential nutrients, leading to weakened hair structure and eventual hair loss. Indeed, in one study, researchers suggested hair follicle damage could be used as an early risk marker of type 2 diabetes.

The chronic inflammation associated with diabetes can trigger oxidative stress, affecting the hair follicles’ ability to regenerate and maintain healthy hair growth. The hormonal imbalances associated with diabetes can also contribute to conditions like Androgenetic Alopecia, and Telogen Effluvium.

In one study into diabetic mice, hair regrowth was reduced because of suppression of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, the molecular pathway that controls the proliferation of hair follicle cells.

It’s also worth noting that the emotional and psychological stress often experienced by those managing diabetes, can further exacerbate hair loss.

How Can Diabetes Trigger Hair Loss?

There are various ways Diabetes can trigger hair loss. Fluctuating blood sugar levels tend to be one of the biggest culprits.

Increased blood sugar levels can lead to inflammation, which, over time, can damage blood vessels and affect the blood circulation in the scalp. This compromised circulation can reduce the hair follicles’ ability to receive essential nutrients and oxygen. This in turn weakens the hair, causing it to become brittle and prone to breakage.

Uncontrolled diabetes can also disrupt hormone levels, particularly androgen hormones, which play a significant role in hair growth. Fluctuations in these hormones can trigger a condition known as androgenetic alopecia, or pattern hair loss, leading to a gradual thinning of the hair on the scalp.

Treating Diabetes-Related Hair Loss

Treating hair loss triggered by diabetes requires a holistic approach that combines targeted interventions. This includes maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Following a well-balanced diet, partaking in regular exercise, and taking medication or insulin therapy, can help stabilise blood sugar levels.

If you have diabetes and you are experiencing hair loss as a result, a consultation with a dermatologist that specialises in alopecia can advise you on effective treatments for diabetes-related hair loss including topical treatments, such as minoxidil.