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July 12, 2023 7 min read

Have you ever felt like you were losing a part of yourself? Like strands of hair falling out of your scalp, leaving an emptiness you couldn't fill? It's a feeling that many of us with hypothyroidism know all too well since hair loss is a common symptom of the condition.

Many of us turn to levothyroxine for help. However, the unfortunate reality is that many people still experience hair loss (or even begin to lose hair when they previously did not) while relying on this medication. The big question is, can we really blame levothyroxine for this not-so-fun side effect? Well, here's the scoop.

What is levothyroxine, and how does it work?

Hypothyroidism is a thyroid disease characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, which results in insufficient production of thyroid hormones in the body. These hormones play a vital role in regulating metabolic processes and maintaining overall health. Common symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, cold sensitivity, dry skin, and hair loss, amongst others.

Levothyroxine is a synthetic hormone replacement medication primarily prescribed for the treatment of hypothyroidism. It functions by supplementing the body's low levels of thyroid hormones, specifically thyroxine (T4), thus helping to restore hormonal balance and alleviate the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. By improving thyroid function, levothyroxine can effectively boost energy levels, encourage weight loss, and address other health concerns related to an underactive thyroid.

Understanding how hypothyroidism causes hair loss is critical when considering how levothyroxine works to prevent it altogether.

How does hypothyroidism cause hair loss?

A woman struggling with hair loss due to levothyroxine.

Feeling frustrated and helpless when you've noticed your hair thinning due to an underlying health condition is understandable. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is one such condition that can lead to hair loss.

When your hair starts to grow, it kicks off at the scalp and pops out of a hair follicle. Your blood circulation feeds the cells in your scalp, giving your hair the power to grow. Human hair growth is like a never-ending cycle. It falls out and springs back to life, even if you're not keeping an eye on it.

Now, when you have hypothyroidism, it messes with that normal hair growth cycle. This happens because the hormones produced by the thyroid gland are responsible for regulating many bodily functions, including hair growth. These hormones can directly alter human hair follicle functions.

Without enough thyroid hormone, hair follicles don't receive enough nutrients and oxygen to grow properly. This leads to weakened hair shafts that break easily and eventually fall out. And it doesn't only affect your scalp, but everywhere on your body. Besides breaking and thinning hair, hypothyroidism can cause changes in the texture and thickness of the remaining hair.

Does levothyroxine cause hair loss?

Levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed thyroid medication. It's like a thyroid hormone boost for your body. It's meant to increase your thyroid hormone levels and help with those annoying hypothyroid symptoms. Thus, it should treat hair loss. But here's the thing – some people notice their hair loss gets a bit worse when they first start taking levothyroxine. Bummer, right?

No need to freak out, though. If you're seeing more hair shedding after starting levothyroxine, it usually only lasts a month or two. Sometimes, the hormones need a little time to level out, and the hair growth cycle needs to adjust to the changes going on in your body.

So, take a deep breath. Once you're on the right dose of levothyroxine, most hair loss should stop, and you'll get back to having a normal hair growth cycle. That is, unless there's another reason for your hair loss, like androgenic alopecia, sneaking around in the background.

Why do I continue to experience hair loss?

If your hair loss is still going strong, there might be a few reasons behind it. Here are some of them:

1. Wrong levothyroxine dose

There's a chance you might not be taking the ideal amount of levothyroxine to get your thyroid levels balanced perfectly. Finding the sweet spot is crucial because if your dose is too low, your hypothyroidism might remain undertreated, resulting in continued symptoms. On the other hand, if your dose is too high, you could end up swinging over to the other side of the spectrum and developing symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid. Interestingly, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism – two distinct thyroid disorders – lead to hair loss.

2. Your body can't convert T4 to T3 properly

The ability to convert T4 to T3 might play a role in why levothyroxine isn't effectively addressing hair loss. Levothyroxine primarily provides synthetic T4, which the body must convert into the more active T3 hormone to carry out its essential functions. However, some individuals might experience challenges in this conversion process due to factors such as nutritional deficiencies, stress, or other health conditions.

Since T3 is the more active and crucial thyroid hormone responsible for regulating numerous vital functions, including hair growth, insufficient T3 levels could contribute to persistent hair loss.

3. Nutritional deficiencies

Your body needs nutrients like iron, vitamin D, and biotin to maintain healthy hair growth. You can experience hair loss if you're not getting enough of these nutrients in your diet or have absorption issues due to gut problems or other health conditions.

4. Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances caused by conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can disrupt the normal growth cycle of your hair follicles, leading to excessive shedding.

5. Stress

Chronic stress can cause an imbalance in hormones that regulate hair growth, causing more hairs than usual to enter the resting phase of the growth cycle, leading to increased shedding.

6. Bald genetics

Hair loss can have a genetic cause, and the most common type of genetic hair loss is known as androgenetic alopecia. This condition is also commonly referred to as male or female pattern baldness.

Androgenetic alopecia is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. In people with this condition, hair follicles gradually shrink and produce shorter, finer hairs. Eventually, the follicles stop growing new hairs altogether, leading to baldness.

The genetic component of androgenetic alopecia is inherited from both parents and can be passed down through multiple generations. However, it is important to note that not everyone who inherits the genes for hair loss will necessarily experience it. Other factors like age, hormonal changes, and certain medical conditions can also contribute to hair loss.

7. Unhealthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet is important to prevent hair loss. Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of exercise can also contribute to hair loss. Smoking has been linked to premature aging and damage to hair follicles. At the same time, excessive drinking can lead to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies that can impact hair health. 

Incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine can prevent hair loss and improve your overall health and well-being.

What should I do if I still experience hair loss?

Talk to your doctor if you experience hair loss due to levothyroxine.

If you're still experiencing hair loss despite taking levothyroxine, consider the following steps:

1. Consult your doctor

If you have a hunch that your current dose isn't quite right, definitely bring it up with your doctor as soon as possible. They'll probably run some thyroid lab tests to check if your thyroid hormone levels and levothyroxine dose are hitting the sweet spot. If the test results show your levels are a bit off, they may tweak your dose to get things back on track.

2. Check your T3 levels

If you persistently experience hair loss even after adjusting your dose several times, you may want to ask your doctor to examine your T3 levels. Since levothyroxine only supplies synthetic T4, your doctor may need to ensure that the appropriate conversion to T3 is taking place. If an issue is identified with the conversion process, they may recommend combination therapy, which includes a combination of levothyroxine and synthetic T3 (liothyronine) or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT).

If you don't want to take another synthetic medication or you don't want to take two medications at once, this might be the perfect moment to give NDT a whirl. Made of porcine (pig) thyroid glands, NDT is packed with both T3 and T4, making it a more comprehensive option than synthetic levothyroxine.

NDT is available in the form of thyroid medications like Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid. However, they can be hard to find in pharmacies, and some doctors may refuse to prescribe them. In this case, you can consider an NDT supplement like VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. VitaliThy contains the same main ingredient as Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid: dried porcine thyroid gland. However, it's considered a supplement instead of medication because of the difference in laws and regulations between the US and Vietnam, where VitaliThy is manufactured.

3. Have a healthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent or reduce the risk of hair loss. Eating a well-balanced diet with essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B, C, and E can help promote healthy hair growth. 

Regular exercise can also improve blood circulation, which helps deliver crucial nutrients to the hair follicles. Also, managing stress levels through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can reduce the risk of hair loss, as stress is a known trigger for hair loss. 

Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can promote healthy hair growth, as these habits can lead to poor circulation and damage hair follicles. Overall, adopting a healthy lifestyle can not only improve overall health but also prevent or reduce the risk of hair loss.

4. Maintain good hair care practices

Be gentle with your hair and avoid using harsh treatments, heat styling tools, or tight hairstyles that could exacerbate hair loss. Opt for sulfate-free shampoos and use a wide-toothed comb to avoid breakage while detangling.

5. Manage stress

High-stress levels are associated with hair loss, so adopting mindfulness practices, engaging in physical activity, and seeking counseling or therapy can help manage stress.

Conclusion: Levothyroxine can cause hair loss

Hair loss is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, a condition that can be treated with levothyroxine. While levothyroxine is an effective medication for restoring hormonal balance and alleviating symptoms, some people may experience hair loss as a side effect. This could be due to a variety of factors, including an incorrect levothyroxine dose, inability to convert T4 to T3, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or unhealthy lifestyle habits.

It is important to consult a doctor if hair loss persists despite taking levothyroxine and adopting healthy lifestyle habits to promote hair growth. If you continue to experience hair loss, you may consider combination therapy or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, is a great option to consider.

By understanding the connection between levothyroxine and hair loss, individuals with hypothyroidism can take the necessary steps to manage their symptoms and improve their overall health and well-being.

Looking for ways to grow back the hair you lose due to hypothyroidism? Check out our article on how to regrow hair loss from hypothyroidism.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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