Female Hair Loss and the Thyroid Gland

Women experiencing hair loss can become extremely self-conscious and worried about their appearance. Women, like men, want healthy hair. Discovering the reasons for female pattern hair loss involves looking at the person’s entire health picture.

Female hair loss usually occurs everywhere on the scalp or in patches at any location on the scalp. This is different from male pattern balding, which affects the front and top of the scalp.

Hormones play a major role in our overall health, including the health of our hair. Some glands work very closely together.

This article focuses primarily on the thyroid gland, which can cause female hair thinning. Thyroid hormones play several important roles in growth, development, and metabolism. The thyroid gland is sensitive to hormones secreted by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes thyrotropic hormone (affecting the thyroid gland), adrenocorticotropic hormone (affecting the adrenal cortex), and three gonadotropic hormones (affecting the reproductive glands).

In addition your hypothalamus, the brain’s brain secretes hormones that influence the pituitary gland. The hypothalamic hormones are referred to as “releasing hormones” and “inhibiting hormones,” reflecting their influence on anterior pituitary hormones.

The thyroid gland is located on both sides of the trachea. The thyroid is an endocrine gland, which secretes thyroxin, the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). Thyrosin controls the rate of metabolism. If thyroid function is disturbed, it can affect any of metabolic activities, including hair loss.

Both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can contribute to hair loss in men and women. When the thyroid has either of these conditions, hair follicles remain in the third phase of growth – the dormant phase – for a longer period of time than normal. This leads to stalled hair growth and, eventually, hair loss.

Thyroid disfunction is known as “the great pretender” because there are dozens of diverse symptoms that seem unconnected, and it is hard to pinpoint the problem as the thyroid. Hair loss can be a component of many of these conditions, which may include hormone imbalances, lethargy, dry skin, depression, slow heartbeat, memory distubances, weight gain, anxiety, skin changes, menstrual imbalance and deceleration of metabolic rate, and chronic yeast infection.1

Testosterone in men and women can be converted by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which shrinks hair follicles and eventually causes them to disappear. This accelerates hair loss in men and women. Especially in women, a condition known as estrogen dominance can lead to a hypoactive thyroid. When estrogen levels are high, excess estrogen can bind to thyroid receptor hormone sites and slow metabolism by blocking the conversion to T4 to T3, the active form of the hormone. Progesterone cream may be recommended to balance the estrogen/progesterone ratio. The herb Vitex (Chaste Berry) may balance the estrogen/progesterone ratio, but it will take about three menstrual cycles to take effect.

Before proceeding with any treatment, it is important to see a doctor and get blood tests to find out for certain what is causing female hair loss. Hair loss may be a sign of a serious but treatable condition.
Depending on the cause of female hair loss, and how the patient responds to treatment, hair transplantation may be a viable option.

1. Scheinbaum, Michael Arluck, Getoff, David, Reduce Blood Pressure Naturally (United States of America: Xlibris, 2005), 265-267.