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What illnesses cause hair loss?

Hair loss can be caused by a range of factors. In this guide, we detail the various illnesses that can lead to hair thinning and loss, and what can be accompanying symptoms.

Whether you are experiencing hair loss and looking to understand the root cause or simply want to know about the conditions that can cause a loss of hair, it can be useful to find out more. However, it is always important you go to a qualified medical expert before doing your own research.


What causes hair loss?


Before we look at the illnesses that can cause hair loss, it's important to note that there are lots of non-illness factors that can otherwise be the cause:

Time:According to the NHS, we lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day without anything being wrong. This is a natural process of shedding, so if you see a few wayward hairs on your clothes or in the shower, it's likely nothing to be afraid of.

Age and genetics: Many people lose hair as they age, and this can often be due to genetic factors. One of the most common types of genetic hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, which affects around half of all men and women.

Stress: Traumatic, emotional and stressful events can also be the cause of hair loss. Also known as telogen effluvium, this type of loss is often temporary but can be relatively severe, affecting the top of the head the most.

Treatments: Certain treatments, such as chemotherapy, can inadvertently attack healthy cells like follicles, causing temporary hair loss.

Weight loss: Restrictive dieting and weight loss surgery can both bring on bouts of hair loss due to stress and a reduction in nutrients. This hair loss is also temporary.

Which illnesses can cause hair loss?

Alongside the events and conditions above, certain illnesses can also result in hair loss. If you think you may be affected, please consider visiting a doctor.

Autoimmune disease

There are several autoimmune diseases which see the immune system attack hair follicles - including coeliac disease and Hashimoto's disease. This causes hair loss in small, coin-shaped patches on the scalp, the entire scalp, or the entire body.

This group of diseases are called alopecia areata and can affect anyone. The causes aren't completely understood, but people with other conditions like vitiligo, psoriasis, or hay fever can be more likely to be affected.

Coeliac disease

If you have a gluten intolerance - also known as coeliac disease - hair loss can be a symptom. The autoimmune disease sees the body's immune system attacking the small intestine when the sufferer eats gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye, and used in foods like bread, pasta and cakes). This damages the gut and prevents it from absorbing nutrients from food.

It is this inability to take in nutrients that can be the cause of hair loss. Malnutrition can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and consequently hair loss. Once you receive treatment for your coeliac disease and stop eating gluten, however, the hair should regrow.

Hashimoto's disease

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland and causes it to become inflamed. As a result, it is unable to produce thyroid hormones, causing hair loss and other symptoms like tiredness and weight gain. 

Hair loss is cause by Hashimoto's disease because the disrupted hormones can affect the hair's cycle of regrowth. It can affect the entire scalp, causing thin growth, but can be reversed once the underlying problem with the thyroid is treated.

Kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease can also cause hair loss. This is because, as the kidney is damaged, a reduction in its ability to filter toxins and waste and maintain vitamin and mineral levels causes hair to become think and brittle. Eventually, this can also damage follicles, leading to hair loss.

Hair loss in cases of kidney disease is typically an advanced symptom, accompanied by other symptoms like itching, facial swelling and chronic exhaustion.

Liver disease

Hair loss can be a symptom of advanced liver disease. This condition is caused by the slow and ongoing loss of liver tissue (cirrhosis) or accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis) due to alcohol abuse, drugs and illnesses like hepatitis.

Both types of liver disease stop the organ from processing nutrients and producing other important things like proteins. As a result, hair follicles don't receive the nutrients they need for growth, leading to hair loss.

Bowel disease

Several studies have found that diseases of the bowel such as Crohn's disease can cause hair loss, though it is typically and advanced symptom.

The reasons inflammatory bowel diseases cause hair loss aren't completely understood; however, it is likely to arise from malnutrition cause by inflammation of the digestive system. Managing your bowel disease can help reduce or reverse the hair loss.

Heart disease

Covering a range of conditions such as angina and heart attacks, hair loss is a marker for increased rates of heart disease, particularly in men.

According to experts cited by WebMD, the cause could be higher levels of male hormones, which affects the male hormone receptors in the scalp and causes hardening of arteries, clotting, and the resulting loss of hair.

Addison's disease

Addison's disease is a relatively rare condition that sees the body's adrenal glands produce too little of crucial hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone. Hair loss is a common symptom of Addison's disease as these hormones are use for hair growth, but if they are replaced through treatment, the hair should grow back.

Get help with your hair loss today

If you have any of the symptoms above, be sure to discuss them with your doctor. For help managing hair loss, view our hair loss products or use our online doctor service today.


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