Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects the proper functionality of the ovaries. Affecting around 10 million women around the world, PCOS can cause symptoms that are difficult to manage over the course of a lifetime.
The condition is known to cause enlarged ovaries that develop small, fluid-like cysts. General symptoms of PCOS can affect the entire body, such as weight gain and fatigue. It can also cause irregular, very light or very heavy menstrual cycles.
But did you know that PCOS can also affect your hair? Some women suffering from PCOS experience significant hair thinning or hair loss that is related to androgenic alopecia.
PCOS-related hair loss
Because PCOS is caused by a hormone disruption, the condition can cause females to develop an excess of androgens, or male hormones, like testosterone. This is a problem called hyperandrogenism.
All women have a small number of androgens naturally. Their presence is necessary for regulating menstrual cycles and stimulating the growth of body hair. However, an overproduction of these hormones can stress your hair follicles by causing androgenic alopecia.
In some cases, hyperandrogenism can lead to an excess of hair growing on the body, while in others, hair loss on the head can be the result.
Some people’s follicles are quite sensitive to androgens. When this happens, hair tends to grow more slowly, disrupting the standard cycle of hair growth. This can cause periods during which more hair is falling out than new hair is growing, resulting in the look and feel of thinning hair.
The follicles also begin to shrink in size, weakening the hair shaft and causing it to fall out. Fortunately, the hair follicles tend to stay alive through all of this, meaning hair regrowth is possible.
This type of hair loss is also known as female pattern hair loss, which is similar to male pattern hair loss or baldness. Female pattern hair loss displays itself differently from male pattern hair loss. It won’t usually cause large bald spots like male pattern baldness will. Instead, this type of hair loss will start with thinning at the crown of the head, most commonly along the part.
Follicle sensitivity is generally inherited, though, so not every woman with PCOS will have this hair loss issue. Female pattern hair loss is also extremely common during menopause.
PCOS symptoms usually begin after a woman begins menstruating. However, since irregular menstruation is one of the most common symptoms and can happen naturally, many women will not identify or be diagnosed with the condition until much later.
If you are experiencing hair loss with no discernable cause alongside other symptoms of PCOS, visit your doctor to discuss the possibility of a diagnosis.
Treating hair thinning or loss from PCOS
If you suffer from PCOS-related hair thinning or loss, you may have some options available for treatment. You’ll want to visit a doctor to explore your options for treating symptoms as a whole, which may assist in hair loss, as well.
Hormone therapy may be recommended, since PCOS-related hair loss stems from hormonal imbalances in the body. Anti-androgen creams or oral medications may be necessary to reduce your body’s androgen count so follicles are not affected.
Some home remedies are believed to have a positive effect on PCOS-related hair loss, as well.
- Zinc and other nutrients: Studies indicate that zinc supplements may help combat the effects of androgenic alopecia in PCOS patients. Other nutrients are also known to improve hair growth and strengthen the hair follicle, which may help stall hair loss.
- Biotin: Biotin is known for its hair growth and strengthening benefits. Taking a biotin supplement can bolster the health of your hair, skin and nails, as well as promote whole-body health and energy production.
- Weight loss and healthy living: Studies have shown that losing weight, exercising and eating healthily can have an effect on the number of androgens present in the body. This can reduce or even stop the hair loss caused by your PCOS. Weight management is a critical aspect of overall PCOS symptom relief, because weight gain can significantly exacerbate symptoms.
Coping with hair loss
To manage PCOS-related hair loss, you will also want to take good care of your hair and scalp to prevent as much damage or hair loss as possible. Use natural products and products that won’t strip hair of its natural oils or cause brittleness and damage.
Avoid chemical-based products that dry out hair, as well as hot tools that can cause heat damage. By caring for the hair currently on your head, you can hopefully prolong its appearance as you work to manage your overall symptoms.