“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” go the lyrics in the movie Mary Poppins, the nanny with magical powers. But too much sugar might be the reason someone needs medicine in the first place. It also might be the cause of hair loss.
What? Ice cream on cake causes hair loss? Donuts with coffee is the cause of alopecia? Candy and cookies lead to shiny noggin?
Well, not exactly – although such things can be contributing factors. There are genetics involved, specifically those who are predisposed to diabetes. As it turns out, the damage of untreated adult-onset diabetes, which includes a failure of the individual to alter their diet and take up physical activity to address it, is that excess blood sugar affects the organs. That can include kidneys, the liver, the heart, eyes, nerves and the brain. But most important relative to hair are the blood vessels, as the circulatory system overall is an organ that feeds nutrients to hair.
This is not the type of hair loss condition that can be solved with a visit to the local hair loss treatment clinic offering the standard menu of hair loss solutions. One suffering hair loss due to diabetes should consult their physician.
When the blood vessels are affected by excess sugar, it reduces the ability of the circulatory system to deliver oxygen everywhere, including to hair follicles. Without sufficient oxygen, hair simply doesn’t grow as well, leading to hair loss. This doesn’t mean finding hair in the shower drain is an indicator of being diabetic or pre-diabetic, as some hair loss is a daily occurrence for everyone. Only when an uptick of that loss is noticeable should you be concerned.
Compounding the loss due to insufficient blood nutrients is an additional factor: stress, brought on by any adverse health diagnosis. Stress of any origin is well known to lead to hair loss, even if temporary. Add to that that diabetic hair loss is very often of the patchy type, known as alopecia areata, which can occur on the scalp as well as on parts of the body. The patches of hair loss are asymmetrical, appearing randomly, on the head and with body hair.
Thyroid disease, an immune disorder, often coincides with Type II diabetes – and can also contribute to hair loss. The disruption in the thyroid hormone impacts hair follicles as well, which then leads to an overall thinning.
Making things even more difficult is that the side effects of many kinds of medication – for diabetes, for thyroid, and for a host of other conditions – is hair loss.
The upside of all this is the hair loss from these conditions is very often temporary. The body treats hair as “nice but not necessary,” for example in times of extreme dieting or involuntary starvation (people with eating disorders often experience thinning hair). The nutrients hair requires are instead deployed to other, more essential bodily functions. Once those needs are addressed, hair growth very often can resume – no spoonful of sugar required.