Why Does Graves’ Disease Cause Hair Loss?

Graves' diseaseGraves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system misinterprets another part of the body as the enemy and attacks it. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. This small gland in the neck controls how your body uses energy, which has profound effects on the entire body. The thyroid even affects how your heart beats.

What is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ disease can strike someone at any age, though most commonly it occurs between ages 30 to 50 and it is eight times more likely to affect women than men. Those with other autoimmune diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, lupus, Addison’s disease, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and vitiligo – are much more prone to develop Graves’ disease than those who do not.

Graves’ disease triggers hyperthyroidism, which means the body overproduces thyroid hormones, causing a variety of symptoms. In cases of extreme hyperthyroidism, it is referred to as myxedema.

Hyperthyroidism of Any Kind Can Cause:

  • Hair loss
  • Irregular and/or fast heartbeat
  • Diarrhea
  • Goiter
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trembling hands
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia

Graves’ disease can also affect skin and hair follicles, causing Graves’ dermopathy. One symptom can be redness and thickening of the skin. Thyroid hormones like T3 and T4 control and regulate hair follicles, their maintenance, and development. When Graves’ disease puts those hormones into overdrive, it can trigger telogen effluvium. When this happens, it causes the hair follicles to move to the resting stage early and stay there… triggering hair loss of up to 70 percent.

In addition to that, Graves’ disease can trigger pretibial myxedema, also known as PTM or thyroid dermopathy. In this case, lesions form on the skin due to hyaluronic acid which can be a byproduct of thyroid diseases. These lesions damage hair growth.

Is Graves’ Disease Serious?

Untreated Graves’ disease can be very serious. As the Mayo Clinic explains, without treatment Graves’ disease can turn into thyrotoxicosis. In its most severe form – which is referred to as a “thyroid storm” – it is life-threatening… as well as being the cause of heart issues, eye problems, brittle, weak bones, strokes, blood clots, and even death.

Does Hair Grow Back After Graves’ Disease?

With normal thyroid-related hair loss (whether hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism), it can be reversed in some cases depending upon the severity of the condition, how soon it is diagnosed, and treatment. In the case of Graves’ disease, it is a bit more complicated because autoimmune diseases can be difficult to treat. Worse, autoimmune conditions like Graves’ disease can sometimes trigger other autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata – which causes a total loss of hair.

What Does Thyroid Hair Loss Look Like?

Hair loss from thyroid conditions tends to occur gradually. If you monitor how much of your hair is shedding, thyroid conditions will increase that to 50-60 strands a day. Thyroid-related hair loss tends to occur overall rather than in specific areas. Patches are unlikely unless you have an area that is already thin for other reasons.

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