Can Hair Loss Be a Symptom of Diabetes?

Hair loss is often associated with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It is thought that certain problems caused by diabetes may result in hair loss, including an immune system disorder called alopecia areata, poor circulation, and high blood sugar.

This article will explore whether hair loss could be a symptom of diabetes, potential causes of hair loss, and treatment options.

woman holding brush hair loss

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What Is Hair Loss?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the average human normally sheds about 50 to 100 hairs per day. Losing hair is part of the hair lifecycle. As one hair is shed, another replaces it.

Excessive hair shedding can occur during times of stress or after pregnancy. However, this is not the same as hair loss. Hair loss, referred to as alopecia, occurs when something stops the hair from regrowing.

Hair can fall out in patches on your scalp or on other parts of your body; it may fall out in a single episode or stop and start over time, and it may not grow back until the cause is identified and treated.

Is Hair Loss a Symptom of Diabetes?

Hair loss can be a symptom of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas does not make any insulin. In type 2, the most common form of diabetes, the body makes insulin but doesn't use it properly; this is called insulin resistance.

Insulin is an important hormone that helps the cells use blood sugar for energy. When it is not being made or used properly, it leads to high blood sugar, which, in turn, can result in numerous serious complications throughout the body if not properly controlled.

There are thought to be three main causes of hair loss in diabetes:

Immune System Disorders

People with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of developing other autoimmune disorders. One of the most common is alopecia areata. This occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, leading to patches of hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body.


Hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) occurs when sugar remains in the blood and cannot be taken into the cells for energy. This can occur because of lack of insulin, insulin resistance, or a combination of both. Over time, damage to the microvascular (smaller) and macrovascular (larger) vessels can occur.

For example, if blood vessels in the legs are damaged, hair follicles below the knees can also be damaged due to a lack of blood flow, which disrupts the flow of oxygen and nutrients and, as a result, affects the hair growth cycle.

Hypergylcemia can also cause hair thinning, hair fragility, spareness of hair, or decreased speed of hair growth. Insulin resistance could produce microvascular impairment, thus playing a role in the pathophysiology of a hereditary cause of hair loss called androgenic alopecia.

A 2019 study found that type 2 diabetes was associated with an increased risk of severe central scalp hair loss in Black women. Researchers concluded that Black women with type 2 diabetes should be followed closely for central scalp hair loss so that appropriate treatment can be offered.

Hormonal Imbalances

Diabetes is closely associated with thyroid disorders. Disruptions in thyroid hormone levels can affect the natural hair cycle.

Levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are also known to be high in those with diabetes, increasing insulin resistance. Excess cortisol can disrupt the hair follicle, leading to hair growth disorders such as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, and telogen effluvium.

Treatment and Management of Hair Loss

It is important to note that no single treatment works for everyone. Treatment options will depend on the reason for hair loss and the type of hair loss you are experiencing. In many instances, hair can grow back once the intervention is started.

Managing Blood Sugar

Because elevated blood sugar is associated with vascular disruption, poor circulation, and hormonal imbalances, maintaining your blood sugars within your normal range may help prevent hair loss.

Your normal blood sugar range will depend on your age, if you experience hypoglycemia often, and how long you have had diabetes.

Typically, blood sugars should be 80-130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) after fasting for eight or more hours and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after a meal. These targets should be individualized with the help of your healthcare provider.


Certain medications are known to help treat hair loss and help hair regrow. The American Academy of Dermatology lists medicines that can help with different types of hair loss. The type of medication prescribed will depend on your age and the risks of side effects:

  • Corticosteroid creams and injections: Injections are typically for adults and not children. Creams can be applied to the patches in both children and adults. Injections seem to be more effective in adults, while creams seem to work better in children.
  • Rogaine (minoxidil): This topical medication helps to keep hair growth stimulated and is helpful for the scalp, beard, and eyebrows. This may also be an option for children.
  • Anthralin: This is another type of topical medication that is typically used with Minoxidil. It can cause skin irritation.

If your hair loss has impacted your daily life and affected your self-esteem, you may want to consider getting a wig, at least until your hair grows back. Some dermatologists may recommend a hair prosthesis, a wig that is custom made to ensure a perfect fit. There are many options to choose from.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

If your blood sugars are at goal and you are reaching your target numbers that you have created with your healthcare team, yet you are still losing your hair, contact your provider. There could be a different medical or nutritional reason as to why you are losing hair.


Hair loss can be a symptom of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is thought to have a few possible causes, including hormonal imbalances, poor circulation due to hyperglycemia, or an autoimmune disorder. Hair loss can often be reversed with medications and by getting blood sugar levels under control.

A Word From Verywell

Dealing with diabetes requires daily self-management and can be tiring. Adding hair loss to your diagnosis may feel overwhelming, but rest assured, there are ways to slow down hair loss, prevent it, and stimulate hair growth.

If you are experiencing hair loss and have some of these other risk factors for diabetes, you may want to be examined by your physician to see if you have impaired glucose tolerance. The American Diabetes Association recommends that, regardless of a lack of risk factors or symptoms, everyone should start getting screened for prediabetes and diabetes beginning at age 35. Getting control of your blood sugar promptly can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.