Scalp hair loss is one of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that can affect self-esteem and cause anxiety. If left untreated, scalp hair loss can lead to total baldness, so early medical intervention is important. With PCOS hair loss especially, it is important to address the root cause — the underlying hormonal imbalance — to reduce the amount of hair loss. A range of treatments, from topical to oral to cosmetic, can make it easier to live with these symptoms.Start PCOS Treatment
For some women with PCOS, hormonal imbalance — especially high levels of male hormones called androgens — can cause hair loss or thinning of scalp hair in a ‘male-like’ pattern, that is, a receding frontal hairline and thinning on top of the scalp.
You can reduce scalp hair loss by reducing the levels of androgens in the body through lifestyle modifications and/or medications. Since the root cause of PCOS hair loss is the underlying hormonal imbalance, treating the imbalance can help improve many symptoms of PCOS. It can take anywhere from 9 to 12 months to see an improvement in your hair loss. When you manage your overall health by following a healthy lifestyle, you may not need to rely on medications in the long run.
We normally lose approximately 50 to 100 scalp hairs each day. If you routinely lose more hair than this, you may find unusually large amounts of hair in brushes, on clothing, and in the drains of sinks. You may also notice that your hair is generally thinner, that your hairline has changed, or that one or more bald patches have appeared.
It’s important to remember that while androgenic alopecia or female pattern hair loss can be seen in women with PCOS who have high androgen levels, this type of hair loss is also pretty common in postmenopausal women — and their androgen levels are usually normal. Sometimes hair loss can be a result of thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies, or even stress.
In our effort to maintain beautiful hair, we might sometimes unknowingly end up damaging our hair during our regular hair care routine. Because damaged hair is fragile, it tends to break easily which can lead to frizzy, unhealthy looking hair. Continual poor hair care habits can lead to hair thinning and appearance of bald spots. Here are some of the hair care habits you should avoid doing:
In females, hair thinning is mainly on the top and crown of the scalp. It usually starts widening through the centre hair part. This pattern of hair loss is known as the Christmas tree pattern. The front hairline usually stays unaffected. Hair loss may progress to near or total baldness. Men usually experience a receding hairline and hair loss at the crown of the head.
Androgenic alopecia is the thinning of hair caused by elevated levels of androgens. This androgen excess can also result in other symptoms of PCOS, such as excess hair growth (hirsutism) in unwanted places such as the face, chin, chest, and back.
Scalp hair loss does not affect your physical health per se, but it can affect your mental health by causing body image or self-esteem issues. Since symptoms such as hair loss are visible, many women feel self-conscious, and this can impact how a woman feels about her body.
It’s important to get to the underlying cause of your hair loss. If you’re concerned about hair loss, speak to a medical professional who can determine the reason and provide you with a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of symptoms of PCOS.
Scalp hair loss can be a response to a number of issues, including nutritional deficiencies, poor hair care habits, or certain health conditions. Having scalp hair loss does not always mean someone has PCOS, so it is important to get the required tests done. Elevated levels of androgen are one clinical feature of PCOS that is responsible for hair loss. Apart from hair loss, other PCOS symptoms to look out for are hirsutism, irregular periods, acne, and weight gain.
There are a number of treatment options for PCOS hair loss, including topical treatments, oral medications, laser therapy, or, in some cases, hair transplantation. These cannot completely cure hair loss, but they can certainly make living with symptoms easier overall.
Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) can help reduce androgen levels in the body by increasing the production of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which binds to testosterone. This helps bring down the excess androgen levels which are responsible for causing symptoms like scalp hair loss. If your condition doesn’t show any improvement after using OCPs for 6 to 12 months, your doctor can prescribe OCPs in combination with anti-androgen drugs.
Spironolactone is an anti-androgen drug that reduces androgen production and blocks androgen activity in the body, which can help reduce hair loss. It is commonly used in combination with OCPs in women with PCOS, especially because it is contraindicated in pregnancy.
This is sold under the brand names of Diane-35 and is a combination of cyproterone acetate (steroidal anti-androgen) and ethinyl estradiol (synthetic oestrogen). This medication has anti-androgenic properties and is use to treat moderate to severe acne, hirsutism and even hair loss in women with PCOS.
Finasteride works by preventing androgen from binding to receptors on hair follicles and thus reducing hair loss. It must be used with a hormonal contraceptive pill to avoid pregnancy while you are taking this drug.
Flutamide is a nonsteroidal anti-androgen drug that works by inhibiting the effect of excess androgen in the body. It is most often used in severe cases of hair loss, and the health of your liver needs to be monitored carefully while you are taking this drug.
Apart from anti-androgen drugs, other remedies include topical treatments and cosmetic treatments.
Minoxidil is an over-the-counter topical treatment for hair loss. It is available as a liquid or a foam that is massaged into the scalp. It helps stimulate hair growth and reduce the incidence of hair loss. Although minoxidil is generally considered to be safe, some may experience dryness, itchiness, or scaling of the scalp.
A hair transplant could be another option in cases of severe hair loss and in women who haven’t responded to medical treatment. Lifestyle changes and medications can help reduce hair loss, but women can benefit from hair transplantation to give a more natural look and to make it easier to live with hair loss.
PRP therapy uses your own blood to help with hair growth. After blood is drawn, the blood is placed into a machine that separates the blood into its different components. The platelets, which are a type of blood cell, are treated and injected into your scalp. It is believed that platelets can help stimulate your cells to grow hair.
Treatment options for PCOS hair loss include oral medications, topical treatments, and laser therapy, but your diet plays an equally important role in helping to manage or reduce the severity of hair loss.
In many research studies, patients with androgenic alopecia have shown a tendency to have lower levels of vitamin D, zinc, and folate. These are also some of the common nutrient deficiencies seen in women with PCOS. Diet alone cannot treat PCOS hair loss, but following a holistic healthy lifestyle can help manage the underlying hormonal imbalance and manage hair loss in the long term.
It is important to include more anti-inflammatory foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, ample sources of protein, and healthy fats to improve your overall health. Although supplements such as biotin can also help meet gaps in deficiencies, eating a balanced diet is a more sustainable solution.
Taking care of your scalp is as important as your skin. Here are some tips to take care of your scalp:
Hair loss can take a toll on your mental health. Especially with a condition like PCOS — where it is important to correct the underlying hormonal imbalance, you should speak to a doctor who can help you understand what your treatment options are.
Our online assessment can help you understand your PCOS risk scores based on your symptoms and medical history. If you suspect that your hair loss is due to PCOS, our experts can help guide you on what is the best approach to managing the condition.
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