Hair loss, or alopecia, is not something you want to mess around with. It’s an emotional issue for both men and women. Hair loss can be genetic, caused by hormonal imbalances, or the result of a health condition, and can be either temporary or permanent. What you may not know is that certain prescription drugs can cause hair loss or thinning of the hair. Here are 10 common medications that can cause hair loss.
The good news is that medication-induced hair loss can be halted once the drug is stopped or the body has adjusted to the dose. Medication impacts hair growth by damaging the hair follicles and causing the hair shaft to fracture.The severity of hair loss is determined by the type and dosage of the drug, and the degree of sensitivity to it.
Types of Hair Loss
Medications can cause two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium. 90% of the hair on the scalp is growing at any given time, with each hair follicle having its own life cycle. This cycle is influenced by a number of factors, including health and age.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is the most common type of drug-induced hair loss, typically manifesting within two to four months after beginning the medication. TE causes the follicles to enter their resting phase (telogen) prematurely, causing the loss of up to 150 hairs per day.
Anagen effluvium (AE) is another type of hair loss that can be caused by certain types of medication. Hair loss may be noticed within a couple of days after starting the drug or it may take a few weeks before any visible changes are apparent.
Hair ceases to actively grow despite being in a growing state (anagen), and matrix cells, components of the hair follicle that produce new growth, stop dividing. Anagen effluvium can potentially be a long-term condition, and can occur on other areas of the body besides the scalp, including thinning of the eyelashes and eyebrows. The hair loss associated with chemotherapy is an example of anagen effluvium.
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Medications That Cause Hair Loss and Hair Thinning
Antidepressant use is rampant. Although medications can be helpful, they all come with side effects. One potential side effect of prozac, a medication used to treat depression, is hair loss, specifically telogen effluvium, which is linked to stress. Stress causes the hair follicles to prematurely enter the resting stage, causing the hair to shed. Certain factors increase risk, including being female, having taken the medication for at least two years, age (over 60), and having breast cancer.
Zoloft is an antidepressant and SSRI used for depressive disorders, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, panic attacks, and social anxiety. SSRIs are the most heavily prescribed antidepressants in the US. What you may not have been told, before filling your prescription, is that hair loss is only one of the many side effects associated with this medication. To compound matters, Zoloft carries a black-box warning due to an increased risk of suicide for those with psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder.
Provera is a synthetic form of the female hormone progesterone that regulates ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It’s used to treat excessive uterine bleeding, fibroids, endometriosis, and secondary amenorrhea. It’s also used to prevent growth in the uterine lining in postmenopausal women who are taking estrogen.
Accutane is a retinoid used to treat acne by decreasing oil production in the skin. It can cause hair loss through a variety of mechanisms: it damages hair follicles, which can lead to permanent hair loss, it causes hair shedding via its effect on hormones, and it causes the hair to thin, likely a result of vitamin A toxicity. Accutane is no longer used in the United States, although a generic form is still available.
Metoprolol is a beta blocker used for the treatment of angina, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat, It relaxes blood vessels and slows heart rate to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Hair loss is more notable in women, those who are over 60 years of age, and people who have taken the medication for up to six months. People with high cholesterol are more prone to experience hair loss. Dosage may also be a factor.
Lisinopril is an ACE inhibitor used to decrease high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels to improve blood flow, preventing stroke and cardiovascular events. How lisinopril causes hair loss is unknown.
Shedding may be noticed while showering or brushing the hair, though is generally not severe. Captopril is another drug in this class that can also cause hair loss.
Humira reduces inflammation by blocking tumor necrosis factor, an inflammatory protein. It’s used to treat arthritis, ulcerative colitis, ankylosing, and Crohn’s disease. One of the drug’s side effects is hair loss, which is thought to be caused by disruptions in the balance of cytokines, chemical messengers within the immune system.
Hair loss caused by humira is usually not severe, with hair growth resuming after stopping the drug. However, conditions such as male pattern baldness, may trigger permanent hair loss.
Lipitor is a statin drug used to lower the amount of cholesterol made by the liver. Statins come with a whole slew of side effects, including hair loss, likely the result of hormonal changes caused by the reduction of cholesterol.
So while your cholesterol numbers are dipping so are the hairs on your head. Zocar, another statin, can also cause hair loss. However, one of the newer statin medications, crestor, does not.
Lamictal is an anticonvulsant used for treating seizure disorders. It’s also used as a mood stabilizer to treat bipolar. Only a small percentage of people taking the drug will experience hair loss, which is thought to be caused by a lack of blood flow to the scalp. Other common side effects include, headache, drowsiness, insomnia, forgetfulness, nausea, and skin rashes.
10. Birth control pills
Millions of women are on the birth control pill, by far the most popular form of contraception. Ironically, the pill is prescribed to prevent hair loss in hopes that the synthetic estrogen they contain will promote hair growth by counteracting the progestins, which damage hair follicles.
Although, discontinuing the medication can result in an increase in hair shedding for several weeks, eventually hair growth will return to normal.
It’s unfortunate that common medications can cause hair loss, but they’re not the only culprit. Poor diet, stress, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, illness, infections, weight loss, pregnancy, surgery, and prolonged iron deficiency can also cause hair loss, thinning, and shedding. If you’re noticing hair loss, and are on one of these medications, talk to your doctor about dosage or consider changing prescriptions.
Do you have any questions about hair loss? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) healthline: What Medications Can Cause Hair Loss, and What Can You Do About It?
(2) GoodRx: Is Your Medication Causing Hair Loss? These 11 Drugs Are Common Culprits
(3) eHealthMe: Prozac and Hair loss – from FDA reports
(4) Everyday Health: What Is Zoloft (Sertraline)?
(5) RxList: Provera
(6) Drugs.com: Lamictal Side Effects
(7) Lara Briden: The Pill, Thyroid, and 4 Other Types of Hormonal Hair Loss
(8) Arthritis Foundation: Getting to the Root of Hair Loss
(9) eHealthMe: Metoprolol succinate and Hair loss – from FDA reports