Organ Donation and Hair Loss

National Organ Donor DayAfter genetics and hormones, which are factors in male/female pattern hair loss, illness and medication side effects are key factors in hair loss. With National Organ Donation Day coming on February 14, it’s a great time to examine the role of organ transplants in hair loss – as a possible future treatment.

Organ donations save lives. Advances in treatment have made transplants more successful and for a wider array of organs. Kidney transplants are less rare and the success rate is better. Heart, liver, heart and lung, and pancreas transplants are more common, but with all of this comes additional issues, such as hair growth.

Can Dialysis Cause Your Hair to Fall Out?

Several factors related to kidney problems and kidney transplant patients can affect hair health and loss. Hair is made of protein so diet changes and being malnourished can lead to hair loss. People with kidney disease often decrease their protein consumption because it’s harder for their bodies to process and eliminate waste from digesting protein. That, in turn, can lead to increased hair breakage, lower hair volume, and decreased hair growth, though the change often takes a few months to notice. Generally, after a few months of a restored protein level, hair growth improves.

A change to the type of dialyzer can also be a reason for hair loss in kidney transplant patients or those awaiting a transplant. In that situation, a discussion with your doctor is essential to determine if an alternative dialyzer is wise in your situation. Hair loss can also be caused by a zinc deficiency, thyroid problems or reactions to medications.

Do Anti-Rejection Drugs Cause Hair Loss?

Unfortunately, hair loss due to anti-rejection drugs is a possibility. While those medications are essential in allowing the body to accept the transplant, like virtually all medicine, they can have side effects. Tacrolimus can cause hair loss. Ironically, cyclosporine can cause unwanted hair growth in some people but doesn’t affect those who are already totally bald. Dermatologist Nathan Hawkshaw at the University of Manchester in England is studying the hair growth side effects of cyclosporine and whether it can be used to treat people dealing with hair loss.

Actress Sarah Hyland from the TV show Modern Family discussed on social media her challenges with thinning hair as a result of anti-rejection medications. Hyland had a kidney transplant in 2012 due to kidney dysplasia.

Alopecia totalis, meaning complete loss of scalp and body hair, did happen to 15 recipients of a kidney or pancreas transplant between 1995 and 1997. In these cases, women were more likely to experience alopecia after organ transplants. Further studies indicate that it might be related to the dosage used in those patients, possibly combined with other factors.

Alopecia totalis is more serious than common hair loss because certain bodily hairs, such as eyelashes, serve a purpose. People with alopecia totalis are more likely to suffer from dry eye and have less eye protection due to the lack of lashes. Lack of eyebrows can create an almost alien appearance for those suffering from alopecia totalis, though cosmetic eyebrows can be drawn on to create a more usual appearance.

Consult with a Hair Restoration Doctor

Every patient is different so the best way to evaluate whether hair restoration procedures will work for you is to talk to a physician who specializes in hair restoration. Here at RHRLI, we offer free consultations in our state-of-the-art facility using the ARTAS® Robot, and we’ll assess whether robotic hair restoration is an appropriate treatment for you. Learn more by contacting us today.

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