Medical Illness & Disease Related Hair Loss

Definition of Medical-related hair loss

When the body experiences trauma, it reacts in startling ways that ripple warfare throughout our physical and emotional wellbeing. Injury or physical trauma is neither uniform nor linear and can encompass positive events such as childbirth, and burdensome events like medical illness. A common side-effect of major physical shock is medical-related hair loss. Pinpointing the underlying disease becomes complex as there is a myriad of possible causes. If you’ve recently had a medical illness or significant life event, we recommend consulting with your doctor to determine the cause and course of treatment.

What Diseases Cause Hair Loss?

The most common causes of medically-induced hair loss fall into two categories: diseases that cause hair loss or a medication prescribed to treat a medical condition. 

Below are the most common illnesses that causes hair loss:

● Autoimmune diseases
● Thyroid disease
● Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
● Anemia
● Bacterial infections
● Cancer including Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
● Heavy metal poisoning
● Myotonic Dystrophy (a form of M.S.)
● Chronic Illness


What illness causes hair loss? The American Association of Dermatology approximates 30+ diseases that cause hair loss. As a result, you may experience one of the following:

medical-related hair loss conditions:

Alopecia Areata

Some hair loss conditions are both genetic and medical, such as Alopecia Areata. This immune system disorder is a disease that makes your hair fall out in patches the size of a quarter. However, it’s also genetic as 1-in-5 people with Alopecia Areata have a relative who also has the condition.

Alopecia Totalis

A rare autoimmune disorder heightened by environmental triggers such as cancer treatment or radiation. Alopecia Universalis affects only 1 in 4000 people and results in loss of hair across the entire body, including the scalp, underarms, lashes, and body hair.

Alopecia Universalis

Another autoimmune-related hair loss issue is Alopecia Totalis, in which all of the hair on the scalp falls out.

Anagen Effluvium

Also known as “Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia” and caused by a sudden, environmental shock that prohibits hair cells from dividing. Anagen Effluvium is often a side effect of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Telogen Effluvium

Any physical shock or trauma can lead to Telogen Effluvium, which is often triggered by significant surgery or the onset of a thyroid issue. Stress on the body generates a shift in the growth cycle, sending an influx of hair into the telogen (shedding) phase. Symptoms begin to show around 2-3 months after the precipitating event. Once you address and identify the trigger, hair should grow back in 3-6 months.

Scarring Alopecia

This rare disease where your hair falls out is a reaction to certain fungal infections, inflammatory disorders, or autoimmune diseases. It’s called Scarring Alopecia because it causes permanent damage to the hair follicle, where scar tissue prevents regrowth. The hair follicles become inflamed and cause itchiness and redness, and the hair appears ragged.

Illness-related hair loss symptoms & diagnosis

Many illnesses cause hair loss, which means that signs and symptoms will vary case-by-case. Your body may have a unique way of highlighting medical-related hair loss. The first step is to acknowledge how you feel and examine new routines or patterns. Are you drained of energy? Do you feel dehydrated? Are your sleeping patterns disrupted? Have you lost your appetite or felt ongoing fatigue? Are you noticing sudden and excessive hair loss?

If any unusual symptoms have recently arisen, jot them down in a log and share your observations with your doctor. These are symptoms that will help point your medical care team in the direction of a proper diagnosis. In some cases, hair loss can even be an indication of an overlooked or underlying medical illness. Once you’ve identified the underlying issue, you can embark on the path toward treatment and recovery.

medical-related hair loss prevention & treatment

Your treatment course will largely depend on your diagnosis. With many medical-related hair loss issues, the hair will resume growth in the months following the initial event or diagnosis. That said, there is no single treatment plan, rather a course of strategic treatment agreed upon between you and your medical care team.

However, we understand that managing symptoms of a medical illness can impede your daily wellbeing. Your treatment plan may move at a slower pace than your hair is falling out. Remember that your body is a dynamic and resilient vessel, and healing takes time. In the interim, there are solutions you can implement into your day-to-day. To retain existing hair, you can use a root securing complex or solution to preserve the hair follicles. If significant hair loss has occurred, consider wearing a top piece or human hair wig. We understand that medically-induced hair loss comes in many forms, which is why we are here with you through every stage of recovery.