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Yes, people with PCOS can lose their hair but there are multiple ways to treat it

Ashley Laderer,Lauren Demosthenes   

Yes, people with PCOS can lose their hair but there are multiple ways to treat it
  • PCOS may cause hair loss because it is linked to elevated levels of DHT, which causes balding.
  • Hair loss in women with PCOS usually shows up along the hair part, where it start to thin.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 12% of women of reproductive age in the United States.

It causes an excess of androgens, which are male sex hormones. This leads to symptoms like irregular periods and weight gain.

Another symptom that many people associate with PCOS is hirsutism, or irregular hair growth on the face and chin. But PCOS can also cause your hair to thin — in fact, some people with PCOS report female pattern hair loss.

Here's what you need to know about why PCOS can cause hair loss, and how to treat it.

Does PCOS cause hair loss?

While hair loss isn't the most common symptom of PCOS, it is certainly more common in women with PCOS than in the general population, says Dr. Loriana Soma, an OB-GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This is because people with PCOS have a higher than normal level of male sex hormones, which is why they may experience excess body or facial hair and acne. These elevated levels of testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can:

  • Cause hair follicles to shrink and become thinner
  • Shorten the normal life cycle of a hair follicle so hair falls out faster and regrows slower

Medical term: Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a byproduct of testosterone, since some testosterone gets converted into it. DHT is the most potent of the male sex hormones, and it is responsible for the growth of facial hair and body hair, as well as male-pattern baldness, or hair loss in women with excess DHT.

Female pattern hair loss presents differently from male pattern baldness. When men start to lose their hair, it usually begins as a bald spot on the top of their head or a receding hairline.

On the other hand, women who have female pattern hair loss will first experience a thinning of the hair where it's parted, and then this part becomes wider, says Soma. The hair will likely continue to thin, but it's rare for it to progress to baldness.

How to treat PCOS-related hair loss

Treatment for PCOS-related hair loss involves treating the underlying hormone imbalance and the hair loss itself.

"A variety of medications can help in the treatment of hair loss related to PCOS, and most people have the best results with a combination of medications," says Dr. Jane Frederick, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist at HRC Fertility, an affiliate of Keck Medicine of USC.

Six treatment options for PCOS-related hair loss are:

  • Hormonal birth control pills: Birth control pills can lower androgen levels, which can help slow down your hair loss, says Frederick. As a bonus, birth control can help with other PCOS symptoms like excess facial or body hair, irregular periods, and acne.
  • Spironolactone: Spironolactone is a prescription oral medication that's known as an antiandrogen. Frederick says since it blocks the effects of androgens on the skin, it's used off-label to treat hair loss. It's common to take this drug alongside birth control pills, Frederick says.
  • Minoxidil: Minoxidil (commonly sold under the brand name Rogaine) is a topical medication. It's the only FDA-approved drug for treating female pattern baldness, says Frederick. It works by increasing the size of your hair follicles and extending your hair growth cycle.
  • Weight loss: If you're overweight, losing weight may help your PCOS symptoms by improving your hormone imbalance. "There is significant evidence that losing weight can lower androgen levels and reduce the effects of excess androgens in women with PCOS," Frederick says. If androgen levels are lower, this can reduce hair loss.
  • Hair transplant: A hair transplant is the most drastic treatment for PCOS-related hair loss. This is a surgical procedure where the surgeon removes a part of your scalp with healthy hair growth, and transplants these hairs into the areas where your hair is thinning. However, Frederick says this typically isn't covered by insurance and can cost up to $15,000 per procedure, and you may need multiple procedures for the best results.

Insider's takeaway

People with PCOS may experience hair loss as a symptom alongside irregular periods, excess hair growth on the face and body, and weight gain.

Hair loss is due to the effects of increased androgens, or male sex hormones.

Various treatments ranging from birth control to topical medications to surgery can help reduce your hair loss. Using a combination of treatments will most likely yield the best results.


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