Does polycythemia cause hair loss?

Ismail Yusibov
Ismail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

 Fact checked by Jessica Anderson

Written by Ismail Yusibov | Reviewed by Dr. Michael Carter


Polycythemia, a rare blood disorder, doesn’t directly cause hair loss. Some treatments, like interferon therapy, may lead to temporary hair loss for a few, but it often grows back. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and consult with a doctor for any concerns, including hair loss.

Polycythemia is a rare blood disorder where the body makes too many red blood cells. This can cause tiredness, weakness, and trouble breathing. While there isn’t a cure for polycythemia, there are ways to manage its symptoms.

The disorder happens because of a change in the genes that control red blood cell production. This makes the bone marrow produce too many red blood cells, making the blood thick and increasing the chance of blood clots. Polycythemia can also make the body produce too many white blood cells and platelets.

Although polycythemia itself doesn’t directly link to hair loss, some treatments for it might make hair fall out. For instance, interferon therapy is a common polycythemia treatment, but it can cause hair loss in some people. Vorinostat, another treatment, has been known to make people lose hair, but it usually grows back after stopping the treatment.

It’s good to know that not everyone with polycythemia will lose hair from treatment. Also, the hair loss from these treatments is usually temporary and comes back when the treatment stops. If you’re worried about losing hair, talk to your doctor about treatment options and possible side effects.

Does polycythemia cause hair loss?

Even though polycythemia can bring symptoms like tiredness, headaches, and dizziness, it usually doesn’t lead to hair loss.

A study in the American Journal of Hematology found that people with polycythemia vera (PV), a kind of polycythemia, don’t usually lose hair. In the study, only two out of ten patients mentioned hair loss, and that was because of interferon therapy, a treatment for PV.

Hair loss is more common with low iron levels, which can happen with PV. But the good news is, taking iron supplements can often help with hair health and reduce hair loss.

Though polycythemia doesn’t directly cause hair loss, it’s crucial for people with it to keep a healthy lifestyle and manage symptoms to avoid complications that might lead to hair loss. This means eating well, staying hydrated, and staying away from harmful stuff.

People with PV only sometimes see hair loss because of interferon therapy. But everyone with polycythemia should look after themselves and stay healthy to dodge any hair loss troubles.

Causes of hair loss in polycythemia

Polycythemia can lead to hair loss because too many red blood cells can make the blood thick and hard for oxygen to reach the hair follicles. When this happens, the hair follicles become weak, causing hair loss.

Some medicines used to treat polycythemia, like hydroxyurea, can also make hair fall out.

Polycythemia is linked to other issues that can cause hair loss. People with polycythemia might be more likely to have low iron, which leads to hair loss. They could also be at a higher risk for autoimmune problems like alopecia areata, which also makes hair fall out.

Even though polycythemia itself doesn’t directly make hair fall out, the things linked to it can. If you have polycythemia and notice hair loss, talk to your doctor about why it’s happening and what you can do about it.

Hair loss: other possible causes

Hair loss isn’t just about polycythemia vera; there are other things to think about. Here are a few possibilities:

Not enough iron

Low iron levels can make hair say goodbye, especially for ladies. Research in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology says even without anemia, low iron can make hair go on vacation. Fixing iron levels often helps with fixing hair loss.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an immune system thing that makes hair leave in patches. About 147 million people worldwide know this struggle. The US Food and Drug Administration hasn’t given the green light to specific treatments yet, but some things are showing promise in tests.

Thyroid troubles

Thyroid issues, like being too slow or too fast, can play a part in hair deciding to move out. If hair loss is on your mind, checking how your thyroid is doing is a smart move.

Medicine matters

Some medicines can make hair wave goodbye. Chemo drugs, blood thinners, and pills for arthritis, blues, or high blood pressure might be the culprits. If you suspect your pills are part of the hair-loss gang, have a chat with your doctor.

Stressed strands

Stress isn’t a friend to your hair, especially if it sticks around too long. Stress messes with the usual hair growth plan and can lead to hair loss. Doing things like exercise or meditation might be the superheroes you need to fight stress-related hair troubles.

Treatment options for hair loss due to polycythemia

Dealing with hair loss caused by polycythemia means tackling the root issue. The main treatment for polycythemia is phlebotomy, a process of regularly drawing blood to decrease the number of red blood cells circulating in the body. This, in turn, can ease symptoms like hair loss.

Apart from phlebotomy, there are other ways to tackle hair loss due to polycythemia:

  1. Topical Minoxidil: This is a medicine you put right on your scalp. It helps hair grow by widening blood vessels in the scalp, boosting blood flow, and delivering more nutrients to hair follicles.
  2. Finasteride: Taken by mouth, this medication helps prevent further hair loss by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is linked to hair loss.
  3. Hair Transplant Surgery: For those with substantial hair loss, transplant surgery might be an option. This involves taking hair follicles from one part of the scalp and planting them in areas with hair loss.

It’s essential to know that these treatments may not work for everyone and can have side effects. Before starting any new treatment plan, it’s wise to talk with a healthcare provider about the possible risks and benefits.

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can also play a role in improving hair loss due to polycythemia. Eating a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals, staying hydrated, and steering clear of smoking and excessive alcohol can all contribute to better hair health.

In summary, addressing the underlying condition is key to treating hair loss due to polycythemia. It might involve a mix of medical treatments and lifestyle changes, and it’s a good idea to discuss options with a healthcare provider.

Research on polycythemia and hair loss

One study in the Journal of Hematology & Oncology found that folks with polycythemia vera, a type of polycythemia, who took interferon-alpha reported hair loss as a side effect. But, only a small number of people had this issue, and it’s not clear if it was from polycythemia or the treatment.

Another study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that people with polycythemia vera using hydroxyurea reported hair loss too. Again, it’s not clear if it was from polycythemia or the treatment.

It’s important to know that hair loss can come from various things, like genes, hormones, or certain meds. If you’re losing hair, talk to a healthcare pro to figure out why and get the right plan.

In the end, there might be a link between polycythemia and hair loss, but more research is needed. If you’re dealing with both, talk to your healthcare provider to find out why and how to handle it.

Ismail YusibovIsmail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *