Medications & Drugs That Cause Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common problem that can be caused by many different factors, including genetics and hormonal changes during puberty. However, there are also certain drugs and other substances that can lead to hair loss. Some of these include:
Medication Side Effects
Medications that can cause hair loss may have many side effects, some more serious than others. These include:
- Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areatas causes patches of baldness on the scalp or body. It usually occurs in adults between ages 20-50 years old. The disease is not contagious; however, it does run in families. There is no cure for this condition.
Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer. It involves using chemicals to destroy cancer cells. This treatment can sometimes cause hair loss.
- Hormonal Changes During Puberty
During puberty, girls experience several physical changes as their bodies mature. One of these includes hair growth. While most people lose hair at this time, some girls continue to grow long hair. If you notice your hair falling out or thinning after puberty, talk with your doctor about whether or not this could be related to hormones.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. This treatment may cause hair loss if too much radiation is given to the head.
- Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease affects how the thyroid gland produces hormones. Symptoms of thyroid problems include hair loss.
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How Do Drugs Cause Hair Loss?
Drugs can cause hair loss in two ways. They can either directly damage hair follicles or they can interfere with normal hormone function.
Some drugs actually cause hair loss by damaging the hair follicle itself. This type of hair loss is called alopecia.
Some examples of drugs that cause hair loss through direct damage include:
Antidepressant medication can cause hair loss. Most commonly, women who take antidepressants will notice thinning of the eyebrows and eyelashes.
- Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills contain synthetic estrogen. Estrogen stimulates hair follicles so taking them can cause hair loss. Women who use birth control pills should discuss this with their doctors before starting any new medication.
- Blood Pressure Medicines
Blood pressure medicines such as beta blockers can cause hair loss. Beta blockers slow down heart rate and lower blood pressure.
- Cardiac Medications
Cardiac medications like digoxin (Lanoxin) can cause hair loss. Digoxin slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
Corticosteroid medications like prednisone (Deltasone) can cause hair loss when taken over an extended period of time.
- Diabetes Medication
Diabetes medications like insulin can cause hair loss. Insulin helps regulate sugar levels in the blood.
- HIV/AIDS Medications
HIV/AIDS medications like AZT (Zerit) can cause hair loss because they weaken the immune system.
Lithium is a mood stabilizer used to treat bipolar disorder. It also has side effects including hair loss.
- Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptives containing estrogen can
How Is Drug-Induced Hair Loss Treated?
The first step in treating drug-induced hair loss is identifying the specific drug causing it. Once the cause is known, your doctor can prescribe treatments for the condition. The following list describes the types of drugs that can cause hair loss.
Alopecia Areatica causes patches of hair loss on the scalp. It usually occurs in children and young adults but can occur in older individuals as well. There is no cure for alopecia areatica. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing further hair loss.
Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain cells to die off. As these cells die, nerve fibers begin to deteriorate. The result is hair loss.
Anemia causes low red blood cell count. Lowered oxygen levels lead to hair loss. Anemia can be caused by iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, or other medical conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of joints. Inflammation leads to hair loss. Rheumatoid arthritis affects both men and women.
Asthma attacks cause airway swelling which makes breathing difficult. Swelling may affect the skin around the eyes and nose. In severe cases, asthma attacks can cause permanent scarring of the lungs.
Baldness is a common problem among males. Baldness is often hereditary. However, some people develop baldness due to aging.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Prostate enlargement is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH causes prostate tissue to grow abnormally. This results in urinary obstruction.
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