Losing your hair can be a symptom of many things. And, often, when people start to notice thinning hair or shedding, they wonder if there’s something wrong with their thyroid gland. This concern isn’t necessarily unwarranted—thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, and Graves’ disease can cause hair loss, after all.

To explain the link between your thyroid gland and your hair—and to help you figure out if your hair loss is, in fact, thyroid-related—we spoke to hair loss experts and Keeps medical advisors Dr. Jerry Shapiro and Dr. Antonella Tosti.

“Thyroid disorders and excessive thyroid supplementation can cause increased hair shedding, also known as telogen effluvium (TE),” explains Dr. Tosti. This is because the thyroid hormones are directly involved with hair follicle functioning, thus affecting hair growth and strength. If you have an overactive or underactive thyroid for any reason, your thyroid hormone levels will be off and your hair will suffer.

It’s worth noting that TE can also happen when someone experiences extreme stress, rapid weight loss, or a severe illness. So, if you’re seeing signs of hair loss, you shouldn’t automatically assume something’s wrong with your thyroid. And Dr. Shapiro adds that, even if you aren’t experiencing any of those other TE-inducing conditions, you shouldn’t blame your thyroid right away.

Yes, “a thyroid problem will cause an imbalance that could lead to hair loss,” says Dr. Shapiro. “But it’s not that common in men.” In fact, the likelihood of a female experiencing thyroid dysfunction is five to eight times higher than the likelihood for a male.

Now, sometimes, males who do have an issue with thyroid function develop male pattern hair loss after the issue’s treated, leading it to appear as if their thyroid caused the male pattern baldness. But that’s not the case.

“TE often unmasks male pattern hair loss or accelerates its progression as the hair that regrows after TE is thinner than it was before,” says Dr. Tosti.

If you experience hair loss and aren’t sure if it’s male pattern hair loss or a thyroid issue, try looking at where on your head you’re losing hair from.

“With male pattern hair loss, there’s a pattern,” explains Dr. Shapiro. (Hence the name.) “You’ll notice a receding hairline or a bald spot at the top of the crown. Thyroid-related hair loss happens all over the scalp.”

No matter what you find when you examine your head, you should consult with your healthcare provider. If there is something wrong with your thyroid, it needs to be treated.

And, if it turns out that you do have male pattern hair loss, there are two FDA-approved, clinically proven medications that can help stop it—finasteride and minoxidil—both of which Keeps offers.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

If you would like to learn more about finasteride, please see the full prescription information here. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit MedWatch: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm   or call 1-800-FDA-1088

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash