The thyroid gland is very important in the human body since it produces hormones called T3 and T4 which influence our metabolism. This means that the thyroid impacts all of our organs and their functions and as a result any problem associated with the hormone secretions from this gland also causes problems throughout the body, including hair problems.
Thyroid conditions can be caused by many factors related to and including genetics and environment. Tumors growing in the brain in a region called the pituitary gland can cause major problems in hormone secretion from other organs of the body. The reason for this is that the pituitary gland, found in the brain, is a type of endocrine gland that sends signals to other glands of the endocrine system. The signals sent from the brain to other glands basically tell these other glands to secrete various hormones.
In essence, the brain controls what and how much of each hormone is secreted in the body through a negative feedback loop. A negative feedback loop works by information being fed back to the brain about levels of hormones in the body. When the part of the brain called the hypothalamus detects a high concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood, it sends a message to the pituitary gland to stop sending the message to the thyroid to secrete hormones. The reverse process happens when the blood concentration of thyroid hormones is too low. In this way, the brain carefully controls how much thyroid hormone is produced.
If the thyroid is diseased, then the gland itself may simply not respond properly even though it is receiving the correct messages from the brain.
What is the difference between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism?
Too little or too much thyroid hormone can result in thinning of the hair or loss of the hair. A man may have androgenetic alopecia on top of thyroid dysfunction which means an even more rapid loss of hair over time.
There can be too much thyroid hormones being produced; this is the condition called hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid results in too much of the thyroid hormones which causes a rapid heart rate and weight loss. Although for some people, losing weight may be beneficial, hyperthyroidism is not a healthy way to lose weight and it needs to be treated. In fact, this condition can also lead to hair loss and even an irregular heartbeat.
Hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism and describes the situation when there is too few thyroid hormones being made and released from the thyroid gland. Causes of hypothyroidism can include genetics, but there are also certain medications that impact the thyroid, including medication for seizure problems.
People who have hypothyroidism often feel tired, gain weight easily and feel cold. Although hypothyroidism is more common in women, men with the condition tend to more often become frustrated when they suddenly gain weight despite their exercise regime, and they also often experience pain in their muscles. Men may experience problems with fertility if they have an underlying thyroid condition; this is an issue which reproductive specialists can discuss with couples who are experiencing problems conceiving. Men may also have hair problems including hair loss and may find that their hair is dry and brittle or of a coarser than normal texture.
Hair loss may be reversed in both the case of too much or too little thyroid problems. People can also consult with hair loss specialists at clinics that specialize in helping hair grow (e.g. Vera Clinic). A person who suspects thyroid issues should visit their personal physician and be tested to see if, in fact, they do have a thyroid condition. This is important since thyroid problems impact more than just the hair and should therefore be treated.
Men also often find that if they have hypothyroidism that they suddenly cannot grow a beard when previously they were able to grow facial hair. More symptoms that men specifically may experience with thyroid problems include erectile dysfunction, a change in their libido and a decrease in the levels of testosterone.
How are thyroid problems treated?
The first step is to visit your doctor if you suspect a thyroid problem, and then treatment will be based on what is causing the problem. The presence of a tumor in the pituitary may mean that surgery is needed. If medication is causing a thyroid condition, then a doctor may prescribe a different medication.
In some cases, radioactive therapy is used targeting the thyroid gland and in some situations the medication levothyroxine is given for people who have hypothyroidism. This is a synthetic thyroid hormone that can replace hormones that are not being produced.
Provided that thyroid conditions are correctly diagnosed and treated, an individual can live a normal life and should not suffer any long term consequences.