PCOS Hair Loss: Symptoms and Treatments
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. PCOS can cause a wide range of symptoms, including weight gain, acne, irregular periods, and excessive hair growth on the face and body. One particularly troubling symptom of PCOS is female pattern hair loss (also known as androgenic alopecia). While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to PCOS hair loss, there are several treatments that may help people with PCOS control hair loss. In this post, we’ll discuss the causes of PCOS hair loss and some treatment options you may want to consider.
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can cause enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. PCOS can also cause changes in your periods, make it difficult to get pregnant, and lead to other health problems including female pattern hair loss.
One of the most common PCOS symptoms is an irregular period. You might have infrequent periods or you might stop having them altogether. Other PCOS symptoms include:
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, or back
- Thinning hair on the head (androgenic alopecia)
- Oily skin or acne
- Trouble getting pregnant ( because of irregular ovulation or no ovulation)
PCOS and Female Pattern Hair Loss
Female pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in women. While male pattern hair loss is characterized by a receding hairline and thinning crown, female pattern hair loss typically causes thinning around the edges of the scalp. In some cases, the hair loss may be diffuse, or spread evenly across the entire scalp.
While the exact cause of female pattern hair loss is unknown, it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. Androgens are male hormones that are present in both men and women in small amounts. However, women with PCOS often have higher-than-normal levels of androgens. These excess androgens can lead to a range of symptoms, including hair thinning and loss.
PCOS and Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata (AA) is a type of hair loss that can occur in women with PCOS. AA is characterized by patchy hair loss on the scalp. In some cases, the hair loss may be more extensive, causing total baldness.
Alopecia areata is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, which means it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It’s not clear why women with PCOS are at increased risk for AA, but it’s believed that the condition may be related to hormonal imbalances.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
If you think you might have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), it’s important to talk to your doctor. They will likely conduct a physical exam and order blood tests to check your hormone levels. Your doctor may also order an ultrasound to look for signs of enlarged ovaries or cysts.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS, but there are several options that can help manage the symptoms. If you’re struggling with weight, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. If you’re trying to get pregnant, they may prescribe fertility medications. And if you’re dealing with hair loss, they may prescribe medications or recommend surgical options.
The most important thing is to talk to your doctor and figure out a treatment plan that’s right for you. With the right treatment, you can manage your symptoms and live a healthy, happy life.
What Causes PCOS Hair Loss?
The exact cause of PCOS hair loss is not known, but it is thought to be related to the hormonal imbalance associated with the condition. Androgens are male hormones that women also have in small amounts. In women with PCOS, the body produces too much of these hormones, which can lead to the growth of excess facial and body hair. The increased production of androgens may also cause the hair follicles on the scalp to shrink, leading to androgenic alopecia with symptoms like thinning hair or baldness.
PCOS Treatment Options
There is no cure for PCOS, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. If you’re trying to get pregnant, they may prescribe fertility medications. And if you’re dealing with excess body hair growth, facial hair growth, or hair loss on the scalp, there are several treatment options available.
Medications for Hair Loss from PCOS
If you’re experiencing androgenetic alopecia hair loss due to PCOS, there are a few medications you might consider. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Minoxidil: This is a topical solution that is applied to the scalp twice daily. Rogaine is a popular over-the-counter form of topical Minoxidil that is available for men with male pattern baldness and women with hair thinning. It can help treat hair loss and may even promote new hair growth in some women. You can learn more about Minoxidil and it’s potential side effects here.
Oral contraceptives: Birth control pills can help regulate your androgen levels due to their anti androgenic effects, which may help improve some PCOS symptoms, including hair loss.
Spironolactone: This oral medication is used to treat high blood pressure, but it can also reduce excess hair growth in women with PCOS. It works by blocking the effects of androgens on the scalp.
PCOS hair loss can be a frustrating and distressing symptom of the condition. However, there are treatments that can help stop the progression of hair loss and, in some cases, may even help with stimulating hair growth. If you’re concerned about thinning hair or baldness due to PCOS, talk to your doctor about your treatment
Birth Control Pills and PCOS
If you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, contraceptive pills may help regulate your androgen levels and improve some of your symptoms, including hair loss. There are two types of contraceptive pills:
Progestin-only pills: These pills contain the hormone progestin. They are often used as a first-line treatment for PCOS because they don’t contain estrogen.
Combination pills: These pills contain both progestin and estrogen. They may be more effective than progestin-only pills in treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, but they also come with a higher risk of side effects.
Hair Products for Women with PCOS
There are a variety of hair products available that can help manage the symptoms of PCOS-related hair loss. These products can be used alone or in combination with other hair care procedures.
Shampoos for PCOS
There are several shampoos on the market that claim to help with hair loss. These shampoos often contain ingredients that can help to block the effects of androgens on the scalp or reduce the visible symptoms of hair loss.
Volumizing Hair Products
There are a variety of products that are designed to visually increase hair thickness to make thinning hair look and feel fuller. These products, sometimes called “hair fiber” products, can be used to camouflage thinning hair or bald spots. They are made from natural or synthetic fibers that cling to your existing hair and make it appear thicker.
Hair Extensions for PCOS
Hair extensions can give you the appearance of thicker, fuller hair. They are usually made from human or synthetic hair and are attached to your existing hair with glue or tape.
While hair extensions are a popular choice among people with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, they do have the potential to further damage hair follicles. Extensions can pull and tug on hair follicles, which can ultimately weaken the hair follicle and result in hair falls. Hair loss as a result of extensions is called traction alopecia and it is common among people who wear extensions or wear their hair in tight braids.
Hair Transplantation and PCOS
In some cases, a hair transplant may be an option for treating female pattern baldness caused by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This is a surgical procedure in which hair follicles are taken from another area of the scalp and transplanted to the balding area. You can learn more about Hair Transplant Surgery in this guide.
PRP Injections for PCOS Related Hair Loss
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are a newer treatment for hair loss that is showing promise in treating female pattern hair loss. PRP is a concentration of platelets and growth factors that can promote healing. Injections of PRP into the scalp have been clinically shown to stimulate significant hair growth and help stop the progression of hair loss. You can read all about PRP therapy for hair loss here.
Supplements for PCOS Related Hair Loss
There is clinical evidence to suggest that good nutrition can help promote hair health. Many dermatologists say they see positive results from prescribing their patients hair vitamins or iron supplements. You can learn more in this guide on vitamins and supplements for hair loss.
If you are concerned about PCOS related hair loss, it may be worth taking a look at your diet and whether or not you are getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals for healthy hair. A simple blood test can tell you if you have any deficiencies, and then you can work with your doctor to develop a supplement plan that’s right for you.
Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss
Low blood iron levels can have many origins. A widespread one is failing to ingest enough iron in your diet, which consequentially means you’re not eating enough iron-rich foods or absorbing the existing iron properly. Other possible causes for lowered iron stores are losing blood, pregnancies, and a few medical conditions.
Low iron levels have been tied to hair health in both gender. This 2013 study found that patients with androgenic alopecia generally had low iron reserves.
Diet for PCOS Hair Health
Eating a healthy diet is important for overall health, but it may also help improve the quality of your hair. A diet that is rich in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables can help promote healthy hair growth. In addition, avoiding processed foods and eating foods that are high in antioxidants, such as berries and dark leafy greens, may also be beneficial.
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