Headaches and Hair Loss – Is There a Connection?
When discussing the topic of hair loss, the subject of genetics being a reason for the loss of hair on the scalp is often discussed. In addition, other reasons for hair loss such as infections, medication induced hair loss; Alopecia Areata, Teloegn Effluvium and Traction Alopecia are often discussed as well. These hair loss causes have been studied and discussed in the past and they are often at the top of the list when it comes to determining the reason for the hair loss, the possible treatment options to reverse the hair loss cause or when making a plan to undergo a surgical hair loss treatment option such as a hair transplant. However, it might be time to add another potential cause for hair loss to the ones listed above. Based on reported cases that are mentioned in an article in a recent issue of the National Library of Medicine, it looks like a headache might need to be added to the list of possible causes for hair loss.
Hair Loss and Headaches Connection Examined
While it might be hard to believe, the hair loss suffered by patients can actually be secondary to a headache. In addition, a headache can actually accelerate patterned hair loss on the scalp of a patient.
That’s right! There are some types of cephalgia AKA a headache that can be the cause of hair loss in patients.
Dr. Kate O Bedrin and Dr. Carrie Dougherty, from the Neurology Department at Georgetown University Hospital, have published their recent findings regarding reported cases of headache hair loss, or cephalgia alopecia, including the initial case report from 2006. The goal of their article was to review the clinical description of headache hair loss as well as the cause, diagnosis and treatment options of cephalgia alopecia.
Headaches and Hair Loss – Recent Findings
In the report of their recent findings, Dr. Bedrin and Dr. Dougherty said the pathophysiology of the headache and hair loss in cephalgia alopecia is believed to be related to neuroregulation of the skin and nerves. In addition, there has been a hypothesis put forth that says a headache is the cause of a recurrent activation of trigeminal and upper cervical branches that innervate the hair cells.
The findings went on to show that the repetitive activation of C fibers can result in the depletion of substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). In turn, this can lead to the loss of hair growth promotion and the disruption of immune system regulation.
One of the recent case reports suggests that cephalgia alopecia, as well as a nummular headache with trophic changes, might actually represent a spectrum of disease involving head pain and cutaneous changes. In general, cephalgia alopecia is a rare headache disorder that can best be described as recurrent burning, along with a stabbing head and neck pain; that is followed by hair loss in the corresponding region of the scalp where the headache is centered.
The mainstay treatment for both pain and hair loss is OnabotulinumtoxinA (onabotA). In order to make an accurate diagnosis for the condition, a patient’s clinical history and overall response to an onabotA treatment is used to make the diagnosis.
In order to identify and treat the condition in the future, more research will be needed to examine the hypothesized disease continuum of head pain and cutaneous changes. As well as further research, it will likely also prove to be beneficial to assess if the grid-like onabotA technique that is used in treating a nummular headache is also effective when dealing with cephalgia alopecia. In addition, further studies are needed to assess the proposed pathophysiology.
What to do and who to Visit?
In the past, the idea that a headache could be connected to hair loss might have seemed “out there” and not one that would be taken seriously. As seen by the findings discussed above, the connection between a headache and hair loss seems to be a valid one which means that the pain in the head of a person might be related to new onset hair loss. Because of the possibility that cephalgia alopecia, as well as a nummular headache with trophic changes, might actually represent a spectrum of disease involving head pain and cutaneous changes, patients should make a consultation with a neurologist to discuss their new onset hair loss condition.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, there are many possible reasons for hair loss. A board-certified doctor that is experienced in examining the scalp and diagnosing hair loss causes is the ideal choice for a hair loss consultation appointment. The doctor will examine the scalp of the patient to determine the cause of the hair loss as well as the best medical option to address the hair loss issue. A neurologist can help the patient get the headache under control so a doctor experienced in treating hair loss can provide the patient with a hair restoration plan if the lost hair is not recoverable.