There is a difference between something causing a particular issue and something being related to the issue. Fibroids do not directly cause hair loss, however, there are symptoms caused by fibroids that are related and can contribute to hair loss.
Fibroids and Hair Loss in African American Women
Many African American women suffer from a permanent type of hair loss called central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA). Over 480,000 medical records compiled on women who were African American were studied by John Hopkins researchers between 2013-2017 which compared data related to women with and without central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) and the presence of uterine fibroids.
Researchers discovered from these existing medical records that 13.9 % of women with CCCA also had uterine fibroids and that only 3.3% of African American women who had fibroids did not have central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia.
The conclusion from the data studied indicated that a woman with CCCA was 5 times more likely to also experience uterine fibroids. The reason or cause behind the link could not be clearly defined but the type of scar tissue CCCA leaves behind is very similar to the fibrous tissue of fibroids, so researchers highlighted this link as notable. Even though a direct connection could not be identified, the numbers in the comparison data were significant enough to show an association.
The report was published in an issue of JAMA Dermatology urging doctors to increase patient awareness of this link citing women who were suffering from CCCA should also be screened for uterine fibroids.
Fibroids and Anemia-Related Hair Loss
Uterine fibroids can cause heavy menstrual bleeding that often lasts much longer than the roughly 4 or 5 days that is considered normal. Some women with fibroids also experience bleeding between periods and an excessive amount of blood loss. Losing too much blood over a prolonged period of time is called chronic anemia or chronic iron deficiency anemia.
Anemia is classified as a condition of being deficient in red blood cells or iron-rich hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. Therefore, the most common symptom seen with anemia is fatigue. Everyone gets tired now and again, but this fatigue is chronic and progressive with each month of iron deficit.
Depending on the amount of blood loss each month, the fatigue may come on gradually such that the woman may not recognize this to be abnormal but rather her “new normal”. She may believe this is a regular part of a woman’s aging but it is not.
In addition to fatigue, she may feel weak, become easily sort of breath, get migraine-like headaches each month. She may chew and crave edible, most notably ice, or inedible, e.g. corn starch, clay, dirt, chalk, substances. She also may notice changes to her skin, nails, and hair.
Iron is closely associated with zinc metabolism and zinc is crucial for hair tissue growth and repair. Zinc deficiency is 10x more likely in women with the iron deficiency than those with normal iron.
With iron deficiency, hair begins to become brittle and break easily. It will become thin and ultimately cause actual hair loss. This in combination with zinc deficiency may also affect thyroid function. This can lead to hypothyroidism which can also cause hair loss.
Video: Anemia due to Fibroids
How Do I Stop Hair Loss Caused by Anemia?
Some patients with mild anemia due to the lack of iron in the red blood cells may be remedied by bringing the iron levels back up to the normal level. This is first done through eating iron-rich foods also cooking in iron skillets. But it may also require oral iron therapy.
Some examples of iron-rich foods include red meat, especially the liver, beans, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Unfortunately, iron is poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Oral iron is absorbed more easily into the body if vitamin C-rich foods or supplemental vitamin C is consumed along with the iron.
When Vitamins and Supplements Don’t Work
For many women with symptomatic fibroids and associated heavy menstrual bleeding, oral iron therapy will not be enough to correct the situation. It is a way to buy time, but it is not treating the underlying problem, i.e. the uterine fibroids. Ultimately for many, it will be necessary to treat the fibroids.
Unlike male hair loss, the hair loss associated with chronic iron deficiency anemia from uterine fibroids is reversible. The anemia is due to excessive iron loss from heavy periods. Therefore, the remedy for this as mentioned previously is to treat the underlying problem: the fibroids.
Depending on the patient’s iron and hemoglobin levels, this may not be possible to treat the fibroids surgically. Gynecologists typically will not operate on a patient with a hemoglobin level of 8 g/dL or lower when the norma is ~11.7 g/dL. Many gynecologists use an even higher cutoff of 10 g/dL due to the usual delay between measuring a woman’s hemoglobin and being able to schedule a date to do the surgery.
However, the is no such cutoff for women that want to pursue Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) to treat their fibroids. Why? Because UFE is completely non-surgical. There is no blood loss and patients with significantly low iron and hemoglobin levels can safely undergo UFE. UFE is also performed commonly in women who do not accept blood products, i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
UFE is a 30-40 minute outpatient procedure that treats uterine fibroids very effectively. 90% of patients get relief from the heavy periods that they are looking for.
Once the periods are normal again, the iron and hemoglobin start to return to normal levels. The woman starts feeling an energy boost as “her tank is no longer half-empty but full!” Her hair becomes thick and full again, and areas of baldness or thinning completely resolve. This transformation is almost too good to be true but is a very common result of undergoing UFE.
Video: Patient Testimonial – “I Am Not Anemic Anymore, I Have a Lot of Energy”
If you’re suffering from uterine fibroids and want to get your life back without any surgery, call the doctors at the Atlanta Fibroid Center®. They have had the privilege to care for more fibroid patients than anyone else that performs the UFE procedure. To learn more or to make a consultation today, please go to ATLii.com.