by NIKKI POPE, March 01, 2021
Hair thinning can be caused by a lot of things, one of which is medication intake. Contrary to popular beliefs, it’s not just cancer drugs that can affect hair growth. Another seemingly-unknown culprit is a class of blood pressure drugs known as beta-blockers.
Also known as beta-adrenergic medications, these are often prescribed to people with high blood pressure. It works by blocking a hormone known as adrenaline or epinephrine.
This results in your heart beating slowly and less forcefully, which then leads to lower blood pressure. Apart from its primary action, beta-blockers can also widen or dilate the arteries and vessels. As such, the use of this drug can also restore better blood flow.
This type of drug is fairly easy to identify. After all, most of its variants end in the suffix -lol. Examples include:
Beta-blockers are usually given to people with the following conditions:
While beta-blockers greatly help reduce blood pressure, it’s not the first line of treatment for the said condition. It’s usually given when other drugs such as diuretics (water pills) fail to work.
Beta-blockers are also given in conjunction with other blood pressure drugs. But even as part of combination therapy, it might not be as effective in certain populations, i.e. older individuals and black people.
As with most medications, beta-blockers come with some side effects:
Beta-blockers such as Propanolol can lead to a temporary form of hair loss called telogen effluvium. While this is usually brought about by stress or a significant life event, medications may trigger this condition as well.
In telogen effluvium, the hairs prematurely enter the resting phase of growth known as telogen. When this happens, about 30% of all your scalp hair can be affected. In essence, this could lead to a shedding of 300 strands - from an average of 100.
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While telogen effluvium does not lead to complete hair loss, it could result in hair thinning 2-4 months about the causative event. This shedding is usually more noticeable during hair washing or combing. Oftentimes, the affected individual will find a tuft of hair on his/her pillowcase.
While the symptoms are quite alarming, telogen is a reversible condition. You can expect your hair to grow back after about 6 months. In some cases, the ‘recovery’ process can take as long as 18 months after the event.
To accurately diagnose your condition, your doctor may perform any of the following:
As the name suggests, your physician will try to pull a small section of your hair. Loss of 10-15 strands is usually indicative of a hair loss condition.
Your doctor will check your scalp for signs of hair loss, redness, or flaking.
If needed, your physician will obtain a sample of a certain area to be checked under the microscope.
Since hair loss is a side effect of beta-blockers, the best way to stop such is to discontinue use. However, you should not do this without your physician’s recommendation. That’s because an abrupt stop could lead to a recurrence of conditions such as high blood pressure, chest pain, or palpitations.
If you are deeply concerned with the drug-induced hair loss, you could ask your physician if he/she could prescribe you with a new type of medication. If this is not possible, you don’t have to worry. After all, there are other things that you could do to help minimize drug-induced hair loss:
A harsh shampoo can worsen your existing hair condition. For best results, use products that have these gentle yet growth-boosting ingredients:
Combing keeps your hair well-groomed, but it's best if you don't do it while it's wet. After all, this is when your locks are at their weakest. If you must do so, make use of a wide-toothed comb to avoid breakages and hair fall.
You need not spend a lot on hair masks and whatnot. You only need to check your cupboard for natural remedies.
One good example is green tea. More than just reducing hair loss, green tea may help combat scalp dryness and dandruff as well. To create your own hair mask, all you need to do is mix green tea, lemon, honey, and olive oil. Apply on damp hair and leave for 10-20 minutes.
A diet rich in protein, iron, and zinc will help you maintain a good head of hair. After all, these nutrients support better hair health. Additionally, eating foods rich in certain vitamins (see below) will help as well.
Even with a healthy diet, it would not hurt to supplement yourself with vitamins that promote hair health. Good examples include:
If your hair loss persists despite not using beta-blockers, then you may need to visit your dermatologist right away. He/she could prescribe you with suitable medications such as Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia). While effective, these drugs have side effects too. As such, you need to be careful when using them.
Drug-induced hair loss, such as the one brought about by beta-blockers, can be alarming for most. The best way to prevent this is to go for another type of medication. If this is not possible, following the tips above may help reduce the resulting hair loss.
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