Revealed: the everyday pills that could cause you to suffer hair loss!

The reasons behind hair loss can be many and varied. They range from genetic predispositions to hair loss, hormones, nutrition, physical activity, chemicals and stress. However, now according to a report by scientists at the University of Melbourne, drugs for blood pressure, acne, depression and even common painkillers can contribute towards hair loss. On top of this they claim other drugs can turn a brunette into a redhead, or make straight hair curly.

Many medications can result in premature hair loss and most of them list it as a side effect. Chemotherapy is the most obvious medical treatment that causes temporary premature hair loss, but others, such as antidepressants and those used for mood disorders and seizures can also affect hair growth.

Professor Sam Shuster, Emeritus Professor of Dermatology at Newcastle University said, “The cause of hair loss or change is often unknown, but you must always consider the effects of drugs, when drugs do affect the hair.”

In many cases, medications are thought to affect hair by interfering with its growth cycle, which has three distinct stages. In the growing period which lasts between three and five years on the scalp, hair grows by around 1cm a month. That’s followed by a shorter two week stage, known as the intermediate phase, where the hair follicle is prepared for releasing the hair.

In the final three month phase the telogen phase or resting phase, the hair stops growing and eventually falls out. After three months, the follicle starts to grow a new hair. Fortunately this happens randomly all over the scalp, if it didn’t, the hair would be shed in clumps.

Some drugs used for epilepsy and other disorders such as migraines have been linked to hair loss and they may even make hair curly.One of the drugs, sodium valproate, has been reported in various studies to cause hair loss in between 3 and 10 per cent of patients. In one of the latest studies, which involved more than 200 patients at Razi Hospital in Iran, 3.5 per cent of patients given sodium valproate experienced hair loss or curling. Another study found hair loss in 7 per cent of patients receiving divalproex, a combination of sodium valproate and valproic acid.

These drugs can trigger hair to fall out prematurely in the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. This normally lasts three months, with the hair naturally shedding at the end of this time, but for some reason antidepressants seem to make hair fall out at the beginning of this phase instead. Fluoxetine better known as Prozac is the most commonly reported antidepressant to cause hair loss.

Increased hair loss occurs up to one year after the start of medication and stops when therapy ends. Tricyclic antidepressants, which include imipramine, amitriptyline and doxepin, may occasionally cause hair loss, found the Australian study, which is due to be published in the journal Dermatologic Clinics. However, according to Professor Shuster, “Patients with this problem should not panic; this type of hair loss is reversible.”

Hair loss has been reported among women who stop taking the Pill after long term use. One theory is that this is because some oral contraceptives, particularly progesterone based pills, contain compounds called anti-androgens. These lower levels of testosterone and thus lower the risk of hair loss in women, who may be susceptible. But when these women stop taking the Pill, the protection ends.

When asked, leading UK Trichologist David Bailey said, “Women with hair loss who wish to take the pill, should try Dianette as it contains an anti-androgen which can stop this. If they do not wish to take the pill, spironolactone is often prescribed. Women who are already on Dianette should be careful if they wish to come off it. They could switch to Marvelon or Yasmin, or spironolactone it they do not wish to take a hormone based therapy. Either way, they should really discuss it with someone who knows all about hair and these types of treatments.

High blood pressure drugs have also been linked to hair thinning. The Melbourne researchers say two particular beta blockers, metoprolol and propranolol; have been shown to lead to reversible hair loss. Another group of drugs used for blood pressure, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, may also be associated with hair loss. The drugs seem to cause the hair to shed prematurely in the resting phase.

Small studies have linked painkillers to hair loss. A recent report from the New Zealand government described hair loss as a possible complication, affecting less than one in 100 users. A small U.S. study based on a sample of 21 people using ibuprofen found that 15 patients reported thinning or loss of hair. Once the medication is discontinued, hair loss reduces over eight to nine months.

However, Professor Shuster cautions that, “Patients should never stop taking the drugs without consulting their GP. They can be switched to other drugs, if appropriate, or the dose can be reduced. In other cases, patients can be reassured the effects are unlikely to be permanent.”

Professor Shuster said, “When drugs do affect the hair, the change is usually mild and reverses when the drug is stopped. So you may want to tolerate the change, because of the important effect the drug is having in restoring your health.”

So it seems that many everyday pills we take can contribute in some small way to hair loss, however as has already been stated the benefits these drugs offer us often far outweigh the possible side effects. Prescribed medicines should never be stopped without first consulting your GP. Also worth bearing in mind is that the side effects can often be temporary and reversible.

However there are effective treatments available to treat female hair loss such as Dianette, spironolactone, or even Regain lotion for women, and Regaine (minoxidil) foam and lotion and Propecia (finasteride) both of which are clinically proven to treat male hair loss. These can be obtained from Medical Specialists Pharmacy, after an online consultation with one of our doctors.

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