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Thyroid Issues: When Hormones Influence Hair Loss.

Thyroid Issues: When Hormones Influence Hair Loss.

Thyroid problems affect approximately 200 million people worldwide. They cause hormonal fluctuations that can lead to hair loss. In this article, we will explore how these thyroid diseases influence our hair growth cycle.

Summary
Published February 1, 2024, by Manon, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

What are thyroid hormones?

It is estimated that approximately 200,000 million people worldwide suffer from a thyroid disease. We find hypothyroidism which is a disease in which the thyroid produces fewer hormones than what is necessary for normal body function. Conversely, we speak of hyperthyroidism when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones which leads to the malfunction of certain organs.

The thyroid gland is located in the lower and anterior part of the neck, in front of the trachea. It produces hormones such as tetraiodothyronine (T4), also known as thyroxine, and triiodothyronine (T3) which regulate our body. Two areas of the brain, namely the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, control the amount of thyroid hormones to produce and secrete into the blood. These hormones are responsible for side effects such as hair loss when there is a thyroid problem. Let's discover how they work.

The life cycle of a hair, in brief.

Each hair has its own life cycle composed of three phases :

  • The Anagen Phase (2 - 6 years): This is the growth phase of the hair during which there is proliferation of the matrix cells that form the inner sheath of the root, the cortex, and the medulla of the hair shaft. The synthesis and pigmentation of the hair shaft only occur during this phase. Its duration determines the length of the hair, typically 1 cm per month.

  • The catagen phase (2 - 3 weeks): The first sign of the catagen phase is the cessation of melanin production, the pigment responsible for the color of our hair, in the hair bulb. The hair stops growing but remains attached to its hair follicle.

  • The telogen phase (2 - 3 months): After the catagen phase, the follicles rest in a dormant phase, the telogen phase. The hair shaft eventually detaches from its follicle, which is already starting to produce a new hair under the skin.

Thus, within a head of hair, not all hairs are necessarily in the same phase as they each have their own independent life cycle. Some may be in a growth phase, while others are on the verge of falling out. Their life cycles are regulated by hormonal or nutritional variations.

Thyroid issues causing hair loss?

Clinically, it has been shown that the hormones T3 and T4 increase the anagen phase of the hair cycle and decrease the number of hairs in the catagen phase. They would prolong the anagen phase by downregulating TGF-2, the main endogenous growth factor inhibiting anagen and also a recognized catagen inducer during the hair life cycle. In the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid does not produce enough T3 and T4 hormones. As a result, more hairs are found in the telogen phase, leading to visible hair loss. Depending on the severity of the hypothyroidism, hair loss can occur all over the body, with noticeable loss in the eyebrow area.

Generally, hair loss associated with thyroid disease can become more noticeable several months after the onset of the disease, due to the duration of the hair growth cycle.

Sources

FREINKEL R. K. & al. Hair Growth and Alopecia in Hypothyroidism. Archives of Dermatology (1972).

PAUS R. & al. Thyroid Hormones Directly Alter Human Hair Follicle Functions: Anagen Prolongation and Stimulation of Both Hair Matrix Keratinocyte Proliferation and Hair Pigmentation. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (2008).

PASCUAL A. & al. Thyroid hormone receptors, cell growth and differentiation. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (2012).

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