Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition among women of childbearing age. Its causes are not yet known, but its impacts on general mental health and well-being can be particularly tough.
While current research has not shown that endometriosis causes hair loss, there could be a number of indirect connections between endometriosis and alopecia. Keep reading to get the full picture of the endometriosis hair loss connection — plus, find out what you can do to combat thinning hair ASAP.
What Is Endometriosis?
Coming from the word “endometrium,” which is the tissue lining the uterus, endometriosis is a condition that happens when endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus — most often on the pelvic organs. The endometrial-like tissue will then progress through the regular menstrual cycle by thickening, breaking down and bleeding.
However, because the patches of endometrial-like tissue have no way to exit the body, they become trapped, which can cause pelvic inflammation and swelling and scarring of any adjacent tissues. And even if the patches of endometrial-like tissue are removed surgically, they can recur.
While individual experiences will vary in severity, most people experience chronic pelvic pain, a heavy menstrual period and painful intercourse as a result of endometriosis. It also commonly causes difficulty in conceiving or even infertility. During menstruation, you might also experience painful urination and bowel movements as well as other gastrointestinal upset like diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
While we don’t yet understand what causes endometriosis, it does seem to happen more commonly among people who:
- Have a first-degree relative (like a mother, sister or daughter) with the disease
- Started their period before age 11
- Have short monthly cycles and/or long periods
- Are infertile
It is estimated to affect about 2%-10% of Americans between the ages of 25-40, and the World Health Organization estimates about 190 million people worldwide are managing endometriosis.
How Endometriosis Might Be Connected to Hair Loss
Research is largely inconclusive in regards to whether endometriosis can cause hair loss directly. With that said, there may be several indirect connections between endometriosis hair loss.
While there is currently no cure for endometriosis, a number of interventions, therapies and/or medications might be used to help manage the condition. Some of these efforts might also induce or contribute to hair loss.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is a hair loss condition that disrupts the normal hair growth cycle temporarily. It can happen when major stress — emotional or physical — shocks the body, and this shock moves an increased number of hair follicles into the telogen phase of the cycle. This, in turn, leads to increased hair shedding about three months after the stressful inciting incident when the telogen hairs are finally shed.
In the case of endometriosis, TE might be triggered by physical stress after a surgical intervention, like laparoscopy or laparotomy — or when starting a new medication. The emotional stress from the severe ongoing pain or the management of endometriosis can also result in TE.
While more research is needed, one recent survey of existing data suggests that there may be an association between endometriosis and other autoimmune conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid disorder, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, Addison’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
In fact, endometriosis and autoimmune disease seem to share some common features, most of which relate to internal inflammation and abnormalities in immune cells.
There may also be a connection between endometriosis and an autoimmune hair loss condition called alopecia areata (AA). More research will be needed to validate its results, but one study of over 35,000 endometriosis patients in Taiwan did suggest an increased risk for alopecia areata.
“The potential mechanisms linking endometriosis and alopecia areata (AA) risk could include shared genetic background, mutual inflammatory pathways and common hormonal factors,” said Dr. Gaby Moawad, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
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Hormone therapies are used to help manage the pain associated with endometriosis, and they can also help to reduce the number and size of endometrial-like tissue patches and keep them from spreading. There are a variety of hormonal therapies used, and treatment will typically begin with the mildest of options and graduate to stronger options if needed.
“Hormonal treatments for endometriosis, especially progestins, may result in severe androgenic adverse effects (like acne, oily skin, voice change, hair loss); hence, patients should be counseled about its adverse effects before starting treatment,” said Dr. Moawad.
Standard birth control (like the contraceptive pill, patch or ring) is the mildest hormone treatment used. And while hair loss isn’t a common side effect of birth control, it is a possibility.
Additionally, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH-a) are a class of drugs that are used to reduce estrogen levels and are typically only used for short periods of time. Hair loss is also a potential side effect of these medicines.
Progestin and danazol are two other hormonal therapies that inhibit ovulation and increase levels of male hormones in the body. Along with acne, oily skin and abnormal hair growth on the face and body, hair loss on the head is a possible side effect.
Finally, aromatase inhibitors like letrozole and anastrozole, which are often used in the treatment of breast cancer, are also used in conjunction with other hormonal therapies when treating endometriosis. These drugs have also been linked to hair loss and might provoke hereditary hair loss (also known as female pattern hair loss) in people who are already susceptible to it.
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Tips For Holistic Hair Care
If you have endometriosis and have noticed hair thinning or excessive hair shedding, talk to your doctor to uncover the root cause of the hair loss. Addressing the underlying cause is the best way to get you back on the road to glorious hair health.
Here are some other tips for taking care of your scalp, follicles and strands while managing increased hair shedding and loss.
Think About Your Hair Care Routine
When you’re recovering from a bout of thinning hair or increased shedding, the key thing to remember is that hair follicles need gentle and supportive care.
Avoid tight hairstyles, heat styling and chemical treatments when possible. And seek out all-natural shampoos and conditioners designed to support the appearance of longer, denser, healthier hair.
Also, consider adding our GRO Hair Serum to your routine. This non-greasy, lightweight serum with clinically proven ingredients has been found to increase hair density and reduce shedding in as little as three months! Check out these inspiring before-and-after stories for more.
Focus On Diet
A healthy diet is one particular lifestyle habit to growing healthy hair, but its No. 1 benefit has always been supporting your general health and well-being. Some research suggests that red meat, trans fats and alcohol should be avoided, while a higher intake of fruits, and specifically citrus fruits, could be associated with a lower risk of endometriosis.
To really support follicles, consider GRO Biotin Gummies for Hair which is formulated with optimal hair health in mind and could round out anything missing from your diet. The gummies contain biotin, folic acid and zinc as well as vitamins B-5, 6 and 12 to support your body in producing keratin and collagen. Plus, each delicious strawberry-flavored gummy contains Vitamins A, C and E, which help neutralize free radicals that can damage hair follicles.
Manage Stress and Seek Emotional Support
As mentioned, endometriosis is a condition that can bring with it a lot of stress. Cyclical and long-term physical pain can drain an individual on so many levels, so stress management tools like meditation, the company of a furry friend and fresh air could be simple and effective ways to help. Added bonus: stress management also can benefit for your hair.
Check out online groups like the Endometriosis Foundation of America or My Endometriosis Team to connect with others who are managing endometriosis and to find additional resources. And, if you’d like individual support, consider seeing a therapist or other mental health practitioner to help manage physical and mental stress .
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Endometriosis is a painful disorder that happens when endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus and attaches to other pelvic organs like the fallopian tubes, causing very painful periods and a variety of other challenges. Based on our current understanding of the disease, the link between endometriosis and hair loss largely seems to be indirect — via endometriosis treatments, surgery or stress that can contribute to increased hair shedding or loss.
Long-term chronic pain and mental stress often accompany endometriosis, making a holistic approach to mental and physical health care an especially helpful way to manage the condition and support yourself and your hair. If you have endometriosis and are losing hair, talk to your doctor to uncover the root cause and explore treatment options.
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