Some drugs can cause hair loss. That’s the bad news. The good part is that, unlike genetic balding, hair loss from drugs is often reversible. Don’t ditch the medication before your doctor clears you though. Your health is more important than the strands on your scalp – remember that in your hour of need.
Hair loss from medication typically occurs because the drug interferes with the normal cycle of hair growth. This includes:
The Anagen Phase: The ‘growth’ phase, which lasts between three and four years.
The Catagen Phase: When hair prepares for the telogen phase. The catagen phases is generally two to three weeks.
The Telogen Phase: Three months of regeneration, during which the scalp sheds old hair and replaces them with new growth.
In most cases, hair loss from prescriptions should rectify on its own. A technique called scalp hypothermia might reduce hair loss during chemotherapy. With your doctor’s approval, you might also consider a natural hair loss remedy like Profollica in the unlikely even that it doesn’t reverse itself.
Some medications can interfere with the anagen and telogen phases. This leads to:
Telogen effluvium – The most common form of hair loss from prescriptions. Telogen effluvium typically appears two to four months after starting the medication, causing the follicles to go into the telogen phase and shed too early.
People with telogen effluvium lose between 100 and 150 hairs each day.
Anagen effluvium – When hair loss occurs during the anagen (growth) phase. This stops matrix cells from dividing and growing new hair. Anagen effluvium tends to occur within days to several weeks and is common for patients on chemotherapy medications.
The effects of anagen effluvium can be severe, and made more pronounced by the type of medication and the patient’s sensitivity to it. Note too that some patients require several chemotherapy drugs at the same time, which can make hair loss worse.
A variety of drugs can lead to hair loss. These include:
Medications for Acne – All acne drugs derived from Vitamin A can lead to hair loss, including Accutane (isotretinoin).
Blood Medications – Anticoagulants thin blood. They can cause hair loss too.
Antidepressants – Prozac and company come with hair loss as a potential side effect.
Cholesterol pills, medications for epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart and blood pressure medications, drugs for inflammation, hormonal conditions, Parkinson’s disease and thyroid disorders, among others, can all lead to hair loss.
Perhaps most notably, chemotherapy drugs are a common source of hair loss among patients.
Do what your doctor says. Your health is more important than the growth on your scalp. Chemotherapy in particular might save your life. If that means shedding your hair – which will likely grow back when lost from this cause anyway – that’s a small price to pay for your survival and the people who love you.
Having said this, do your homework. Your doctor might not mention hair loss as a side effect of a drug he prescribes. So look into it. WebMD has an excellent ‘Drugs and Supplements‘ section. Make a point to ask your doctor if you might experience hair loss with a prescription. In some cases, there may be an alternative medication that won’t cause baldness.
Remember though, the final word rests with your doctor. He knows your medical history and should have a solid grasp on the best medication for your condition.
A technique called scalp hypothermia might reduce hair loss during chemotherapy. To perform this, place ice packs on the scalp for several minutes before and roughly 30 minutes after the treatment. This reduces blood flow to the follicles and makes it more difficult for chemo meds to get into the follicular cells.
In most cases, hair loss from medication should reverse itself when your doctor clears you to stop taking the prescription. Hair tends to grow back quickly after chemo treatment, but it might change in texture.
A doctor can diagnose hair loss from medication. This might require some trial and error if you’re taking several medications simultaneously. The process might also require:
Thyroid function testing – To test for thyroid disorders, which can trigger hair loss and thinning.
Full blood count – To see if iron anaemia deficiency is responsible for your hair loss.
Hair shaft exam – This looks at the shape, length and fragility of the hairs in question.
A pull test – In which the doctor pulls on about 60 hairs to see how many come out.
Biopsy – Removal of tissue from the scalp for analysis.
Your doctor will ask a series of questions to further help in diagnosis and finding the best remedy for your hair loss from medication. Be prepared to answer questions that may include:
When did your hair loss begin?
How quickly is it falling out?
Have you noticed any other symptoms, like burning, itching or tingling?
What medications did you take in the four months prior to the hair loss?
Do you have any other illnesses? What are they?
Have you made any changes to your diet or hair care routine?
While it should grow back, your doctor might prescribe a hair loss medication if your hair loss does not rectify on its own. Rogaine and Propecia are two of the best known medications for hair loss, but come with side effects that should be considered.
As a natural alternative, speak with your doctor about Profollica.
Minoxidil, better known as Rogaine, is perhaps the most famous hair loss medication. The product is available withouth a prescription. Apply it to your scalp as directed.
Rogaine does not address the cause of male pattern baldness – excessive levels of DHT – but your doctor might prescribe it to address hair loss from medications or chemotherapy.
Use it For: Frontal hair loss. Rogaine may preserve a thinning hair line, but shows little benefit for the crown area or the broad hair loss that most guys experience with time.
Side Effects: While it’s on the milder side, Rogaine may cause eye irritations, chest pain, dizziness, weight gain and swollen hands or feet. Keep it away from Fluffy too – cats are deathly allergic to Rogaine.
Though it’s not recommended for women with genetic hair loss, Profollica is a two-step natural anti-hair loss system. The product comes with a daily herbal supplement that stimulates hair growth with vitamins and minerals.
You’ll apply the second part of the Profollica system topically – it’s an activator gel that stimulates follicles with Trichogen, which reportedly reduced hair loss in 90% of men in a clinical trial.
Use it For: Profollica is designed primarily for men with genetic hair loss, but it is proven to stimulate hair growth naturally, and might be of interest if your doctor gives his approval.
Side Effects: There are no reported side effects with Profollica because it’s completely natural, yet it offers comparable hair growth to prescription hair growth medications, which makes it very popular for guys with genetic hair loss.
If you have some advance notice that you’ll be taking a prescription, research the drug for hair loss as a side effect. Ask your doctor about this too – can he suggest an alternative that won’t shed your beloved strands? If he can, that’s awesome. If not, do as he says. Health comes before hair, and hair loss from drugs should reverse itself anyway.
Don’t stop using the prescription until your doctor says otherwise too. He’s a smart dude and has your best interests in mind.
When your health is better, speak with your doctor about the hair loss issue. It should fix itself, but might warrant some attention if it takes longer than four months. Your doctor can help with that as well, and might perform the diagnostic tests described in this article to isolate the medication responsible.
Finally, keep things in perspective. Hair loss is traumatic, but it ranks pretty low in the grand scheme of things. Health comes before hair loss, and your family and friends are important too.