When you think “thyroid,” you may have in your mind someone with an enlarged neck, or bulging eyes, or who is very overweight. And while these exaggerated symptoms may be associated with some cases of thyroid conditions, the majority of thyroid patients will never have those more obvious symptoms. In fact, if you have a thyroid condition, you’re more likely to notice too much hair in your brush, or in your drain, or on your pillow.
What is the thyroid, what does it do, how do you get diagnosed? These are all issues that I’ll be tackling here as as I focus on the thyroid- and hormone-imbalace related aspects of hair loss here as a guest expert blogger for the American Hair Loss Association, which is run by hair loss guru — and my colleague and friend — Spencer Kobren.
You can read more about my background here at the AHLA Blog.
In the meantime, let’s start with the thyroid itself. It’s small, about an ounce, shaped like a butterly, and wraps around the trachea, behind and below the Adam’s apple area. And it’s your body’s metabolic engine, producing hormones that deliver energy to your cells. The thyroid can become overactive — hyperthyroidism — and that can cause many symptoms, including weight loss, anxiety, and…hair loss. And the more common thyroid problem is hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, which can cause many troublesome symptoms, including weight gain, depression, fatigue, and…yes, hair loss.
I’ll be focusing on thyroid symptoms at greater length in future posts, but if you have fatigue, depression, anxiety, unexpected weight changes, sensitivity to temperature extremes, diarrhea and/or constipation — among other symptoms — accompanied by hair loss, it’s time to at least rule out a thyroid problem.
And the type of hair loss can be telling as well. A unique and very specific type of hair loss that can occur in hypothyroidism is loss of the outer edge of eyebrow hair. This is almost always a thyroid sign, and always warrants followup with your physician.
Also pay attention to these hair-related signs that are more common in thyroid patients …
* Hair loss not just from the head but the body (i.e., underarms, arms, legs)
* Hair that breaks easily
* Hair that has a change in texture, including becoming thinner, finer, coarser, rougher, brittler, or more strawlike
* Hair that easily tangles
* Hair that changes its qualities, and no longer will hold a perm or a curl