Graves’ disease is one of several autoimmune diseases that can impact hair follicles and growth cycles. It can develop in anyone at any age, though most often it occurs between ages 30 to 50 and is significantly more likely to affect women than men.
If you are managing Graves’ disease or other thyroid disorders, you might start to notice you're losing hair and wonder if the condition is to blame. Read on to understand the Graves disease and hair loss connection and what you can do to combat thinning hair ASAP.
What Is Graves Disease?
Graves disease is an autoimmune condition that impacts the thyroid gland. The thyroid is part of a vitally important system called the endocrine system, which secretes various hormones to regulate many different bodily functions, including how your body metabolizes and uses energy.
With Graves’ thyroid dysfunction, the immune system mistakenly targets the thyroid and results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (called hyperthyroidism). A number of disorders can cause hyperthyroidism, though Graves' disease is the most common in the United States. When the thyroid is overactive, symptoms can range in severity but might include things like:
- Irregular and/or fast heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
- Trembling hands
- Weight loss
In addition to these symptoms, research has shown that there is a direct connection between thyroid hormones and hair follicle function. Hair shaft growth and life cycles can be impacted by both an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
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Can Graves Disease Cause Hair Loss?
“Thyroid disease, both Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, can result in hair loss,” said Dr. Daniel Grabell, a board-eligible dermatologist with Princeton Dermatology.
Whether it be hyperthyroidism (as with Graves’) or hypothyroidism (as with Hashimoto’s), a dysfunction in the thyroid primarily impacts the production of two hormones: T3 and T4. Research suggests that these two hormones are directly involved in the functioning of our hair follicles and can impact the growth of hair shafts, as well as their texture and color.
Both overactive and underactive thyroids can cause dry, brittle strands or thinning hair on your scalp and body. And if hair falls out, it may not be replaced with new growth, which can mean thinning hair all over the scalp and other areas, like your eyebrows, eyelashes and body hair.
In addition to the direct impact Graves’ can have on the growth cycles of hair, the disease also can impact your hair indirectly. Here's how.
Anemia is common among folks who have Graves’ disease, with one study showing that about 22% of participants with Graves’ were also anemic. Anemia is defined by a lack of red blood cells in the body, which can impact your hair. Follicles are dependent on red cells to transport the oxygen and nutrients they require for healthy hair growth.
Celiac disease can also co-occur with Graves’ disease, and it's estimated that about 2%-5% of people with an autoimmune thyroid condition develop Celiac disease. With CD, the intestines create an immune response to gluten, which most commonly leads to pain, inflammation and diarrhea. And because the intestinal inflammation created by Celiac disease can inhibit the absorption of nutrients, anemia is also a common occurrence with Celiac disease.
Though it is considered to be quite uncommon, certain drugs used to treat thyroid conditions may also contribute to hair thinning. Carbimazole and propylthiouracil are antithyroid drugs that might, in rare cases, lead to hair loss.
Other Autoimmune Conditions
People who have Graves’ may also be at a higher risk for developing other autoimmune conditions, and there are emerging relationships between Graves’ and polycystic ovarian syndrome, as well as Graves’ and lupus. The relationships between these autoimmune conditions require more research to fully understand, but in both cases, hair thinning and hair loss could be complications.
When it comes to hair loss specifically, another autoimmune hair loss condition called alopecia areata (covered below) is also seen at higher rates in folks with Graves’ disease.
What Kind of Hair Loss Does Graves Cause?
Hair changes and loss directly related to Graves’ typically show up as a general weakening and breaking of the hair strands. The disease also can cause thinning throughout the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and other body hair. Not only that, but hair can also become more fine, dull and lackluster, according to Dr. Grabell.
Two other more specific forms of hair loss are also associated with Graves’ disease.
“It’s important to note that other hair disorders are commonly associated with Graves' disease, including alopecia areata,” said Dr. Sandra El Hajj, medical doctor and founder of the American Preventive Health Organization.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where hair is lost in round patches on the scalp and possibly other areas of the body. While AA is usually temporary, chronic or long-term cases can result in more permanent and widespread hair loss.
Dig Deeper: Alopecia Areata Explained
Telogen effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss that happens when the body or hair follicles undergo a drastic shock or change. The shock triggers the follicles to transition out of the active growing stage (anagen phase), into the resting stage (telogen phase) and finally into the shedding stage of the growth cycle.
The drastic hormonal changes that can come along with Graves’ disease could trigger an episode of telogen effluvium. While this form of hair loss can feel very distressing since a significant amount of hair loss happens in a short period of time, it’s usually temporary and resolves on its own.
Treatment for Graves' Disease
The best way to manage hair loss associated with Graves’ disease is to treat the underlying cause: imbalanced thyroid hormones. Your doctor will want to run a full thyroid panel to understand what you need in terms of medications and treatment.
“So, regulating your thyroid hormones will doubly benefit your hair loss by fixing the thyroid functions and regulating hormones. As a result, hair loss will slow down significantly,” explained Dr. El Hajj.
Graves’ disease is often very successfully managed with medications, but it may take some time for your body to get back to a state of balance and for your follicles to shift back into normal hair growth and cycles. In other words, be patient!
Even when functioning normally, hair growth cycles take time. Hair grows, on average, about one-half inch per month, so it might take several months before you start to really see new growth. Also, new hair growth may differ in color or texture from your original hair.
Understand: The Ultimate Guide to Hair Growth Cycles
Holistic Hair Health for Graves Disease
When managing Graves disease hair loss, there are a variety of tools at your disposal. For the most part, getting your thyroid hormone levels back in balance is the best way to help your follicles return to normal growth. However, here are a few other ways you can support the process.
Address Your Diet
While eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for health, there are specific dietary concerns for folks who are managing Graves’. Food sensitivities and allergies may trigger an immune response that can cause a flare-up in Graves, so be sure to avoid foods you’re allergic or sensitive to. And because there is an increased chance of Celiac disease with Graves’, be mindful of gluten consumption and how it makes you feel.
Graves’ can also be associated with a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies and iron-deficiency anemia, so it might be necessary to focus on getting adequate levels of iron. Osteoporosis can also be a concern, so calcium and vitamin D are other important nutrients to focus on. Last, a condition called Graves’ eye disease has been associated with a deficiency in selenium, which is found in mushrooms, brown rice and sunflower seeds. Consult with your doctor about possible nutritional deficiencies you may experience with Graves' disease and how to resolve them.
Consider asking your doctor if GRO Biotin Gummies could be valuable in helping your body recover from Graves’ related hair thinning or loss. Don't let the name fool you — these are anything but basic biotin supplements. Our carefully formulated daily gummies contain many of the vitamins and nutrients your hair needs.
Create a Targeted Hair-Wellness Routine
While your hair follicles and growth cycles get back to normal, it’s important to up your hair wellness game and support your scalp from the inside and out.
Be gentle with hairstyles, heat tools, chemical treatments and products. Also, consider GRO Revitalizing Shampoo & Conditioner. These cruelty-free formulas will coat every strand of your hair in our vegan keratin protein b-SILK™ to give it softness, shine and a little extra volume. Additionally, phyto-actives and organic wild-harvested oils will support your scalp’s microbiome while protecting it from environmental stressors.
Another great addition to any hair-wellness routine is our bestselling GRO Hair Serum, which has been clinically proven in some subjects to reduce hair shedding by up to 76% and increase the appearance of hair density by up to 52% in four months.
Practice Stress Management
Stress comes along with its very own “stress hormones,” called cortisol. Not only does Graves’ impact hormones in the body, but the stress associated with managing a health condition (and just life in general!) can add more hormonal imbalance to an already imbalanced system. Chronic stress can have a big impact on your follicles.
Stress management is an important way of supporting your body’s return to normal hair growth cycles. And lots of options exist to reduce cortisol and help your body become more resilient in the face of stress: exercise, meditation, yoga, sunshine and pets are all mood-boosting and cortisol-busting ways of getting more zen.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes the thyroid gland to be overactive, also known as hyperthyroidism. Thyroid-related hair loss might be a complication you experience since hair growth and hair cycles can be directly impacted by the hormonal imbalances created by Graves’, but hair might also be impacted indirectly by anemia, another autoimmune disorder associated with Graves’s and, in rare cases, by thyroid medication used to treat Graves’ disease. The good news is that managing the thyroid disorder with medications will generally reverse thyroid hair loss. Be patient, as it might take some time for your body to adjust and return to balance!
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