Is Hair Loss A Symptom Of Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid.

The thyroid is a small gland located in front of your neck, producing thyroid hormones that control how your body uses energy.

With Hashimoto's disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid glands, preventing it from making adequate hormones.

Nearly five out of 100 Americans¹ aged 12 years and older have hypothyroidism. It is a condition that affects women more¹ than men.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Hair loss: what's normal and what's a cause for concern?

The American Academy of Dermatologists² notes that it is normal to lose up to 100 hair strands each day. Women generally lose more hair³ per day than men.

However, if you are experiencing unusual hair loss episodes accompanied by bald spots, patchiness, and/or clumps of hair falling out, see your primary care physician or dermatologist.

Several issues, including hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, and stress, could cause hair loss.

Is hair loss a symptom of Hashimoto's disease?

Severe and prolonged hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can trigger hair loss⁴, and the loss tends to affect the entire scalp rather than a few areas.

Hair loss due to thyroid disease becomes apparent several months after the onset of thyroid disease due to the long hair cycle.

People with autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's disease could develop other diseases such as autoimmune alopecia, which results in diffuse hair loss. 

Will the hair grow back?

The hair loss caused by prolonged hypothyroidism can be worrying. It happens because the abnormal thyroid function destabilizes the natural hair regrowth cycle.

Your hair is likely to appear thin and sparse all over, though people can experience hair loss differently. Hair regrowth is possible⁴ once treatment starts and hormone levels are normalized.

Useful treatments for hair loss and Hashimoto’s disease

Several medications may help to keep your hair thick or regenerate growth. Along with medications, several other home remedies⁵ can help you slow hair loss and regenerate hair growth.

These include:

Other symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease

Hashimoto's disease is known to progress slowly, making the symptoms difficult to recognize immediately. The eventual decline in thyroid hormone production can cause the following common symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Increased sensitivity to cold

  • Muscle weakness

  • Dry skin

  • Swelling of the thyroid

  • Memory loss or problems with concentration

  • Joint pain and stiffness

  • Irregular or excessive menstrual bleeding

  • Constipation

  • Increased sleepiness

  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness

  • Enlargement of the tongue

  • Brittle nails

  • A puffy face

  • Hair loss

Causes

This autoimmune disorder results in the immune system producing antibodies that mistakenly attack thyroid cells as though they are foreign bodies, such as viruses or bacteria; this eventually damages the cells leading to cell death in the thyroid gland.

Although the reason why the immune system acts this way is unclear, experts believe the disease could be related to any or some of the following:

  • Environmental triggers like stress, radiation exposure, or infection

  • Genetic factors 

  • A combination of genetic factors and environmental factors

Getting a diagnosis

During diagnosis, a health care provider will ask questions about your symptoms and review your medical history before conducting a thorough physical exam. Your doctor will also order a series of blood tests to determine whether hypothyroidism is the cause of your symptoms.

Treatment

Conservative management

If you have mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism, you may not need any treatment apart from ongoing monitoring of your TSH levels.

Medication

Hashimoto's disease can be effectively treated with medication that can be prescribed by your doctor.

T-4 replacement therapy

Hashimoto's disease can also be treated with levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone. The synthetic hormone works similarly to the naturally produced T-4 hormone.

Complications of Hashimoto’s disease

Thyroid hormones are crucial for the normal functioning of body systems. If Hashimoto's disease is not treated, it may result in some complications such as:

Heart problems

Hypothyroidism may lead to poor heart function. It could also result in an enlarged heart or irregular heartbeat. In severe cases, the disease could trigger high levels of bad cholesterol that substantially increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Myxedema

Undiagnosed or untreated severe hypothyroidism can cause myxedema. The symptoms of this condition manifest through skin changes, such as swelling of the face including lips, eyelids, and tongue, and swelling and thickening of skin anywhere on the body, especially the lower legs. 

Severe hypothyroidism, when left untreated, can lead to myxedema coma, a rare but life-threatening condition.

Signs of myxedema coma⁶ can include extreme fatigue, reduced consciousness, fever, or a drop in body temperature, particularly during the colder months.

If you think you or someone you know could be experiencing signs of myxedema coma, you must seek urgent medical care.

Goiter

Enlargement of your thyroid gland is referred to as a goiter. When thyroid hormone production reduces because of Hashimoto's disease, the thyroid gets signals from the pituitary gland to make more. This cycle results in a goiter that could affect your appearance and interfere with swallowing or breathing.

Mental health issues

Depression and other mental health disorders could occur at the onset of Hashimoto's disease and may become severe with time.

Poor pregnancy outcomes

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy could increase the risk of preterm birth or miscarriage. Babies born to women with untreated hypothyroidism⁷ are at a higher risk of developing various developmental disorders such as autism, speech delays, or decreased intellectual abilities.

Men with hypothyroidism could have reduced libido⁸, lowered sperm count, and erectile dysfunction.

Reproductive and sexual dysfunction

Women with hypothyroidism could experience decreased sexual desire and decreased ability to ovulate⁹ or excessive and irregular menstrual bleeding

Outlook

The prognosis for a person living with Hashimoto's thyroiditis is good with early diagnosis and proper treatment. Timely treatment can restore thyroid hormone levels and reduce the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, hypothyroidism can worsen over time without treatment, leading to organ damage and severe illnesses.

When it's time to see a doctor

The signs and symptoms of Hashimoto's disease vary widely and may not be specific to the disorder. Since several disorders could cause these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible for a timely and accurate prognosis.

The lowdown

Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition that damages your thyroid function. The condition causes white blood cells and antibodies to mistakenly attack the cells of the thyroid.

In the United States, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.

In some cases, thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism can result in hair loss. Fortunately, there are ways to treat and manage the condition that can also help restore hair thickness and regrowth.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Hashimoto's disease, you must see your primary health care provider as soon as possible.

  1. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  2. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? | American Academy of Dermatology Association

  3. Hair loss in women | Cleveland Clinic

  4. Hair loss and thyroid disorders | British Thyroid Foundation

  5. Hair loss: Tips for managing | American Academy of Dermatology Association

  6. Myxedema and coma (severe hypothyroidism) (2000)

  7. Maternal and child's thyroid function and child's intellect and scholastic performance (2015)

  8. How thyroid problems might be hurting your sex life | Penn Medicine

  9. Hypothyroidism and infertility: Any connection? | Mayo Clinic

Other sources:

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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