What is Hyperthyroidism?
Your thyroid gland is located at the front of your throat and in normal people it produces a balance of two hormones that regulate your metabolism, body temperature, weight and heart rate. Hyperthyroidism simply means your gland is producing too much of these hormones causing imbalances in the above mentioned bodily functions. The most widespread causes for hyperthyroidism are Graves’ disease, toxic nodular goiter and thyroiditis.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and is classified as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include an enlarged thyroid gland, thickening of the skin over the lower legs and inflammation and swelling of the tissues around the eyes.
How Can It Be Treated?
There are many natural home remedies such as diet changes and natural herbs, however these treatments have not been FDA approved and their effectiveness hasn’t been conclusive. Coconut or mustard oils are examples of treatments patients use rubbed on the scalp to prevent hair loss. They are thought to improve blood circulation to the scalp and therefore stimulate hair growth. Many other oils derived from herbs, such as tea tree oil are thought to have similar effects.
Hair loss due to an overactive thyroid is commonly treated in a couple of ways. Radioactive iodine taken orally is known to cause the thyroid gland to shrink and therefore bring the gland back to more normal function. Surgery to remove part of the thyroid gland is also an option; however this method can result in hypothyroidism. Hair loss is not guaranteed to reverse once the disease is treated depending on the level of damage done to the follicles during the period of imbalance.
Although surgery is not often recommended in the case of thyroid related hair loss, once the disease itself is treated many of the traditional non-invasive hair loss treatments can be used to speed up the regrowth process.
Toxic nodular goiter is characterized by nodules or lumps in the thyroid gland, usually non-cancerous. This causes the thyroid to produce hormones at a dramatically higher rate. This disease can also cause the opposite problem in patients causing their thyroid production to decrease drastically presenting its own set of symptoms.
There are three main types of Thyroiditis, all of which are usually temporary. Subacute thyroiditis which usually lasts a few weeks and then resolves itself as the virus runs its course. Postpartum thyroiditis can occur in women after giving birth but generally only lasts a few weeks until the excessive hormones are used. Unlike these types, autoimmune thyroiditis is characterized by the chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to the cells inability to convert iodine into thyroid hormones.
Why Does it Cause Hair Loss?
Hyperthyroidism causes an enzyme to convert the testosterone on the scalp into DHT, a virtually useless version of the hormone. DHT attacks the hair follicles making them smaller or disappear all together. This causes the hair to thin or stop growing entirely. The conversion to DHT seems to be sped up by hyperthyroidism and can cause continued hair loss even when the thyroid imbalance is treated.