Whilst the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown, the symptoms commonly associated with the condition have been widely recognised. One of the symptoms known is thinning hair and/or hair loss from the head, known as alopecia. This is one of a variety of symptoms, and a diagnosis of PCOS does not mean this is a symptom you will have, as how the condition presents can be different for everyone. Other symptoms of PCOS can also include irregular or no periods, fertility issues, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), weight gain and acne.
What causes hair loss in people with PCOS?
High testosterone and hair loss
One of the three main features of PCOS (required for diagnosis) is excess androgen levels in the circulation. This increase in androgens, particularly testosterone, is thought to be the main catalyst and influence of alopecia. Testosterone switches off hair growth in scalp hair follicles in susceptible individuals; there is a high genetic predisposition to hair loss and hair thinning.
Alopecia presents as:
• Small areas of hair loss, with fragile and thinning hair among healthier hair
• Bald patches with many thin hairs
• Hair can appear fuzzy and almost invisible
These androgens may also cause other symptoms such as acne and hirsutism.
Stress and hair loss
Stress has been found to have an increased impact on individuals with PCOS, who are found to have elevated levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. Increased stress can disrupt hormonal balance and increase testosterone levels, which as outlined above, can lead to hair loss.
How to treat PCOS hair loss or hair thinning
PCOS-related hair loss and medication
Yes, medicines can be provided by your healthcare provider to help with hair loss and hair thinning. These medicines are called anti-androgens.
Anti-androgens work by occupying the same space on the hair follicle that testosterone would usually latch onto (the androgen receptor). Examples of this type of anti-androgen include cyproterone acetate, spironolactone and flutamide.
Or, they block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, testosterone’s more potent cousin. Examples of this type of anti-androgen include finasteride and dutasteride.
PCOS-related hair loss and stress
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, stress can lead to hair loss. Therefore, in addition to a healthy balanced diet, and recommended medications, stress management techniques such as yoga are recommended for individuals with PCOS.
PCOS-related hair loss and supplements
If you have PCOS and hair loss, you may want to speak to your doctor or GP about having some blood tests conducted. Testing for underactive thyroid levels may be necessary. Testing for iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D may also be appropriate.
Although, most commonly iron deficiency is at a low level and only the scalp follicle hair detects it. So it may be useful to supplement with iron supplements, even if blood tests come back in the normal range.
We recommend BetterYou Iron Daily Spray or Floradix Iron Supplement Tablets. Speak to your healthcare provider before taking supplements.