6 Ways Your Hair Is Telling You That Your Thyroid Is in Trouble
Are these changes in your hair a sign of thyroid problems?
There are three kinds of hair days: the good, the bad, and the days when your strands are sending you warning signals about your health. Breaking, thinning, flaking—these can all be signs that something is amiss.
Since the thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and beneath your Adam's apple, you may be wondering how it could possibly be related to your hair health. "There are a number of ways that your thyroid can affect your hair," explains Virginia Blackwell, MD, of Eve Mag. "There are many different kinds of thyroid problems, but the most common include hyperthyroidism [and] hypothyroidism," she says. Read on to find out what your hair could be telling you about your thyroid health.
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"Thyroid diseases occur when the normal production of thyroid hormones is disrupted," according to Verywell Health, which notes that the key hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). "Because the thyroid contributes to a range of processes throughout the body, impaired thyroid function can stall hair growth."
Hair loss caused by thyroid problems occurs over time, is not replaced with new growth, and falls out in clumps or strands; "this could affect your eyebrows, body hair, and eyelashes, too," reports EndocrineWeb.
Dry, brittle hair
There are lots of reasons for dry hair, including heat damage, harsh shampoos, and the use of chemicals. Another reason? The thyroid failing to produce enough hormones. "In hypothyroidism, hair can be dry, coarse, brittle and slow growing," writes Joshua D. Safer, MD, in an article published by Dermato-Endoctrinology. "Similarly, nails may be thickened, brittle and slow growing."
While hypothyroidism can cause hair texture to become dry and brittle, hyperthyroidism can result in hair that feels extremely fine and soft, says Everyday Health. "[It's] not a permanent problem as long as you get the treatment you need," reports the site. Hair changes are often "only temporary, and will go away as treatment is continued and thyroid hormone levels stabilize."
Sometimes thyroid problems cause hair to become "thin and sparse all over," rather than to fall out in clumps or patches, says WebMD. WebMD also points out that an autoimmune thyroid disease known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis in particular can cause thinning hair, and that the sooner a person addresses changes in, or loss of, their hair, "the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage."
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Excess hair growth
Excess hair growth might sound like a good thing, but when it's caused by thyroid problems, it doesn't usually occur on the head. This growth, known as hypertrichosis or hirsutism, usually happens on the forehead area, including the temples and between the eyes, as well as on the upper part of the cheekbones. So if you notice that your eyebrows are suddenly extra bushy, or you have hair on your face that you didn't before, contact your doctor.
Itchy, dry scalp and dandruff
Skin cells are susceptible to changes caused by thyroid problems—and when that skin is located on the scalp, the effects can show up in your hair. Dry, flaky skin can lead to an itchy scalp and stubborn dandruff.
Dermatologist Ilyse Lefkowicz, MD, says people can determine if their dandruff is caused by hypothyroidism by where the symptoms occur, and if there are other signs. "Dandruff is confined to the scalp, while the dry skin that marks hypothyroidism can occur anywhere on the body," she writes on the Head & Shoulders website. "Secondly, hypothyroidism is associated with a number of other symptoms that are outside the scope of dandruff."
Lefkowicz recommends consulting with your doctor if you experience other symptoms of hypothyroidism in addition to changes in your hair. If you're concerned about your thyroid function, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional who can run tests and tell you whether there's a problem.