Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) experience hair loss or thinning of scalp hair, referred to as androgenic alopecia or, more recently, female pattern hair loss. And this is one of the most troubling symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. This is typically due to the elevated androgen levels found in women with PCOS.
Why Does PCOS cause hair loss?
This usually occurs due to hormonal imbalance. This is primarily due to the high levels of androgenic hormones found in women with PCOS. This can result in acne, thinning hair, facial hair or hirsutism, and hair loss, dryness, and is damaged.
Androgenic alopecia or female pattern hair loss
Female pattern hair loss is defined by a loss of hair density in the scalp’s frontal and vertex regions (the top). Hair eventually thins and shortens in these areas but does not completely fall out, as it does in men. Hair loss associated with PCOS can occur at the root when the entire hair follicle falls out. In addition, it can occur as breakage, as the hair is drier and more susceptible to damage from heat and brushing. This means that the scalp, hair may be more frizz as a result of hair breakage.
Furthermore, the scalp may be drier and itchier. Additionally, some women with PCOS report buildup and dandruff. Hair may appear finer than usual and be more difficult to style without excessive product to add body and fullness.
Can hair loss from PCOS be reversed?
Hair loss associated with PCOS can be treated if the underlying cause is corrected (typically a hormonal imbalance). If your gynecologist knows the underlying cause of PCOS, then they make recommendations regarding PCOS treatment options. As the treatment will help:
- Restore hair follicles to health (consult a trichologist)
- Maintain or balance hormone levels (consult a gynaecologist and endocrinologist).
Additionally, a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and stress management practices may also be part of your treatment.
In the United States, a topical treatment for female pattern hair loss is marketed under the brand name Rogaine (topical minoxidil). Rogaine will not reverse hair loss caused by PCOS, but it can help manage it. Take into consideration that if you discontinue use, hair loss may recur.
Your health care providers may prescribe oral contraceptives or a prescription-strength medicated shampoo and androgens to manage hair loss and scalp conditions like dandruff and dryness. Certain individuals may also choose surgery, referred to as hair transplantation surgery, particularly if the cosmetic effect of their hair loss is distressing and medications are ineffective.
Scalp platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy involves collecting plasma from your blood and injecting it into the scalp, which has shown good results.
When to see a doctor?
For individuals experiencing PCOS hair loss should speak with a health care provider. This can help clarify the role of PCOS and possible treatment options. Effective PCOS management needs time and trial and error to determine what works, but it is entirely possible to treat.