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How does diabetes affect hair loss?

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Quick Answer

Diabetes generally results in hair loss by preventing an adequate supply of oxygen from reaching and nourishing the hair follicles, states Healthline. This occurs when the blood vessels are damaged due to the accumulation of blood sugar, which is common in diabetic patients.

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Full Answer

Diabetes is characterized by the body's inability to metabolize the sugar derived from dietary intake. This disease develops when the body is incapable of secreting a hormone called insulin, although the condition can also occur if insulin is produced but not efficiently used by the body. Multiple organs may become dysfunctional as a result of the excessive sugar in the blood, which can further lead to impairment of the body's circulatory system, particularly the blood vessels.

Significant damage to the blood vessels translates to a reduced amount of delivered oxygen to different parts of the body, including the upper and lower extremities, such as the head, arms, legs and feet. By disrupting the normal hair growth cycle, diabetics may experience shedding more hair than usual. Diabetes is also likely to reduce the rate of growth of hair.

Diabetics are predisposed to a condition known as alopecia areata, notes Healthline. This disorder promotes hair loss by triggering an adverse immune response that destroys the hair follicles, often causing patches of hair to fall out.

Stress can also be a contributing factor to hair loss in diabetics. Loss of hair is also associated with taking medications to treat the condition, or when the diabetes is compounded by the presence of thyroid disease.

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