Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss

Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss


Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. But with about 100,000 hairs in the scalp, this amount of hair loss shouldn’t cause noticeable thinning of the scalp hair. As people age, hair tends to gradually thin. Other causes of hair loss include hormonal factors, medical conditions and medications.

Causes Of Hair Loss


Hormonal factors

The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. In genetically susceptible people, certain sex hormones trigger a particular pattern of permanent hair loss. Most common in men, this type of hair thinning can begin as early as puberty.

Hormonal changes and imbalances can also cause temporary hair loss. This could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth control pills or the onset of menopause.

Medical conditions

A variety of medical conditions can cause hair loss, including:

  • Thyroid problems. The thyroid gland helps regulate hormone levels in your body. If the gland isn’t working properly, hair loss may result.

  • Alopecia areata. This disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles — causing smooth, roundish patches of hair loss.

  • Scalp infections. Infections, such as ringworm, can invade the hair and skin of your scalp, leading to hair loss. Once infections are treated, hair generally grows back.

  • Other skin disorders. Diseases that can cause scarring, such as lichen planus and some types of lupus, can result in permanent hair loss where the scars occur.



Hair loss can be caused by drugs used to treat:

  • Cancer

  • Arthritis

  • Depression

  • Heart problems

  • High blood pressure

The reason that some medications cause you to lose your hair is that they are toxic to the hair follicles — the cells responsible for hair growth. When hair follicles become damaged, the normal cycle of hair growth is disrupted, which eventually leads to hair loss.

Types of Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss

The medications listed below most commonly cause hair loss:

  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners). Anticoagulant medications, which can help stave off blood clots and prevent complications in people with certain conditions, including heart disease, can also cause hair loss. The type of hair loss caused by anticoagulants is known as telogen effluvium, which is hair loss that can affect the entire scalp, rather than just a specific area. Hair loss typically begins after about 12 weeks of taking a medication. Anticoagulants that can lead to hair loss include warfarin sodium (Panwarfarin, Sofarin, Coumadin) and heparin injections.

  • Gout medications. Allopurinol, a medication used to treat a form of arthritis known as gout, can also lead to telogen effluvium. Brand names include Lopurin and Zyloprim.

  • Beta blockers. Beta blockers are medications that reduce the workload of your heart and help to lower blood pressure. Beta blockers are known to cause telogen effluvium, and include:

    • Atenolol (Tenormin)

    • Metoprolol (Lopressor)

    • Nadolol (Corgord)

    • Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA)

    • Timolol (Blocadren)

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or ACE inhibitors, are another type of blood pressure medication. ACE inhibitors, such as those listed below, can lead to telogen effluvium as well:

    Vitamin A. When taken in large doses, vitamin A may lead to telogen effluvium. The acne medication isotretinoin (Accutane) is derived from vitamin A.

    • Captopril (Capoten)

    • Lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil)

    • Enalapril (Vasotec)

  • Female hormones. Taking female hormones can trigger hair loss. Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormone replacement therapy can lead to hormonal changes that may cause your hair to fall out. Hormonal medications that been known to cause telogen effluvium and female pattern baldness include birth control pills, estrogen, and progesterone.

  • Male hormones. Male hormones can also trigger hair loss. Men who take testosterone or anabolic steroids may experience male pattern balding.

  • Antidepressants. Certain medications used to treat depression and anxiety are also known to cause telogen effluvium, including:

    Anticonvulsants. Anticonvulsants, or anti-seizure medications, can also lead to diffuse hair loss. These medications include trimethadione (Tridione) and valproic acid (Depakote).

    • Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)

    • Amoxapine (Asendin)

    • Clomipramine (Anafranil)

    • Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane)

    • Doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan)

    • Fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac)

    • Haloperidol (Haldol)

    • Imipramine (Janimine, Tofranil, Tofranil PM)

    • Nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl)

    • Paroxetine (Paxil)

    • Protriptyline hydrochloride (Vivactil)

    • Sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft)

    • Trimipramine (Surmontil)

How to Combat Hair Loss From Blood Pressure Medication

Step 1

Discuss your hair loss symptoms with your doctor. The extent to which your hair falls out due to medication will depend on your genetics, and the strands will often come out in patches that resemble patterned balding. Your doctor will take a medical history from you and conduct a series of tests such as the hair pull test, a scalp biopsy and a blood test to determine the cause of your hair loss. If your medication is making your hair fall out, your physician may switch your medications or alter your dosage, if possible.

Step 2

Eat a diet that is rich in the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are necessary for healthy hair. These include the B vitamin complex, calcium and biotin, all of which contribute to the growth and maintenance of your hair. Choose fruits, vegetables and lean proteins that contain these nutrients. Ask your doctor for suggestions, and check with her before you make any alterations to your diet or begin taking new supplements.

Step 3

Use a shampoo that contains zinc. According to the Huntington College of Health Sciences, getting an adequate amount of zinc in your diet is imperative for the health of your follicles. Additionally, applying the mineral directly to your scalp may help combat hair loss and encourage regrowth. Wet your hair and massage the shampoo gently into your scalp using the pads of your fingers, and then work it through your strands. Rinse it all out to avoid leaving behind any residue that may collect on your scalp and clog your follicles.

Step 4

Let your hair dry naturally, if possible. Overexposure to heat can fry your locks, leaving them damaged and more likely to fall out. Use a wide-toothed comb to work out any tangles, and do not tug or pull on your hair, which can also lead to loss.

Other causes of hair loss

Hair loss can also result from:

  • A physical or emotional shock. Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after a physical or emotional shock. Examples include sudden or excessive weight loss, a high fever, or a death in the family.

  • Hair-pulling disorder. This mental illness causes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair, whether it’s from the scalp, their eyebrows or other areas of the body. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots on the head.

  • Certain hairstyles. Traction hair loss can occur if the hair is pulled too tightly into hairstyles such as pigtails or cornrows.

What types of medications cause hair loss?

Many different types of medicines are thought to cause hair loss, including some of the following types of medications:

  • Acne medications

  • Antibiotics and antifungal medications

  • Antidepressants

  • Oral contraceptives

  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants)

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications

  • Immunosuppressant medications

  • Chemotherapy medications

  • Epilepsy medications (anticonvulsants)

  • High Blood Pressure medications (anti-hypertensives)

  • Hormone replacement therapy-oestrogen or progesterone for women, androgens and testosterone for men

  • Interferons

  • Mood stabilisers

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications ( NSAIDs)

  • Parkinson’s disease medications

  • Steroids

  • Thyroid medications

Even though quite a few medications can cause your hair to fall out, the good news is that this form of hair loss is usually temporary. Talk with your doctor to find out if a medication could be causing your hair loss. If so, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication or recommend a treatment that will help minimize your hair loss.

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