If you’ve ever seen a television ad for a new drug or game-changing medication, you know that about half the ad’s time is taken up by someone reading a seemingly endless list of potential side effects. That’s the way it is for almost any medication – all the good they do also comes with some bad. For many vital and life-sustaining drugs and treatments, one of those side effects can be hair loss.
Drug-induced hair loss can be just as troubling as pattern baldness or any other type of hair loss. The good news, however, is that most hair loss caused by medication is temporary, with hair growing back after you stop taking the drug.
What’s Behind Drug-Induced Hair Loss?
Medications can cause hair loss by interfering with hair’s normal growth cycle. Hair grows during the anagen phase, which usually lasts between two to seven years. Hair then rests during the telogen phase, which is about three months long. At the end of each telogen phase, hair falls out and is quickly replaced by new hair.
Medications can disrupt one or both of these cycles. Telogen effluvium, the most common form of medication-related hair loss, usually appears two to four months after starting a drug. Telogen effluvium causes hair follicles to go into their resting phase and fall out earlier than they should. People with telogen effluvium usually shed between 30 percent to 70 percent more hairs than the typical 100 and 150 hairs per day.
Drug-induced hair loss that occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle is called anagen effluvium. This condition prevents the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from dividing as they usually would. This type of hair loss usually occurs within a few days to weeks after taking a medication and is a common phenomenon for patients taking chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment.
What Medications Are Associated With Hair Loss?
In addition to chemotherapy medications, plenty of other common prescription drugs list hair loss as a potential side effect, including:
- Acne medications containing vitamin A (retinoids)
- Antibiotics and antifungal medications
- Thyroid medications
- Weight loss drugs
- Birth control pills
- Anticlotting drugs
- Mood stabilizers
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Drugs that treat breast cancer and other cancers
- Epilepsy drugs (anticonvulsants)
- High blood pressure medications (anti-hypertensives), such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Parkinson’s disease drugs
As noted, medication-related hair loss is almost always reversible. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your prescription, and never discontinue a medication because of hair loss without first discussing it with your physician.
No Matter The Reason Behind Your Hair Loss, The Miami Hair Institute Can Help
At the Miami Hair Institute, our world-renowned hair restoration physicians diagnose and treat hair loss cases no matter what the underlying cause. Through advanced hair restoration surgical techniques, technology, and alternative non-invasive treatments, we can help patients suffering from hair loss regain their hair and self-confidence.
To receive your personalized evaluation and treatment plan, contact us online or call our office directly at 305-925-0222.