Prescription Medications and Hair Loss

Medications and Hair LossIf you see a lot more people wearing purple on March 26 than usual it’s because “Purple Day” is another name for Epilepsy Awareness Day. Epilepsy is a chronic condition that involves recurring, unprovoked seizures, sometimes caused by a brain injury or family genetics, but sometimes the cause is unknown.

Epileptic seizures come in many forms from fainting to uncontrolled spasms and more. The seizures can have a devastating effect on a person’s life, sometimes making it impossible to drive or hold a job. Prescription medications for epilepsy strive to control and minimize or eliminate seizures.

Do Epileptic Medications Cause Hair Loss?

Most medications have side effects, and anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are no exception. Among the AEDs with hair loss claims are Topamax, levetiracetam, Keppra, Depakote, Tridione, and others.

What Medications Cause Hair Loss?

Hair loss is a fairly common medication side effect because many medicines damage hair follicles. The hair loss isn’t necessarily immediate. It can take weeks or months for the medication to be toxic to hair follicles, causing hair loss. In the case of people being treated for breast cancer, hair loss typically begins 4-5 weeks after starting chemotherapy.

Some medications, like chemotherapy drugs, cause hair loss in most users while others depend upon an individual’s interaction with the medicine. Alopecia, or hair loss, caused by prescription medication can affect more than the scalp. It can also involve loss of hair all over the body as well.

Common Medications That Cause Hair Loss

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Statins are a class of cholesterol treatments that have a reported side effect of hair loss. This includes drugs such as Lipitor/atorvastatin and Zocor/simvastatin. The statin Crestor/rosuvastatin does not produce this side effect.

    • Anticoagulants
    • Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, is the anticoagulant most commonly associated with hair loss.

    • Blood pressure medications
    • Known as ACE inhibitors, medications like captopril and lisinopril treat high blood pressure and have been known to cause hair loss. Fortunately, it’s only been in about one percent of its users.

    • Psoriasis treatments
    • The psoriasis pill acitretin, also known as soriatane, is well known for hair loss as a side effect.

    • Anti-arrhythmia drugs
    • Amiodarone, also known as Cordarone or Pacerone, has a well reported, but uncommon, hair loss side effect.

    • Anticonvulsants
    • Used for seizure disorders, bipolar disorder and preventing migraines, Divalproex/Depakote can cause hair loss.

    • Antacid
    • Cimetidine/Tagamet is an acid reducer now sold over the counter for acid reflux and GERD. Hair loss is an infrequent side effect of using it.

    • Steroids
    • These hormonal treatments have a well-documented history of causing hair loss. Among them are testosterone, progesterone, Depo-Provera, medroxyprogesterone, Provera, and Prometrium.

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