Drugs That Cause Hair Loss or Thinning

drug-induced-hair-lossHair loss or thinning can be triggered by many factors, such as stress, injury, disease, aging, and so on. Sometimes, medications and drugs may be to blame too. But, it should be noted, such symptom is often temporary in this case. And here are the common drugs that have such side effects.

1. Antineoplastic agents. It’s accepted fact that anticancer drugs can cause alopecia or baldness. While they are designed to kill the malignant cells that are rapidly dividing and rapidly multiplying, they kill the hair follicle cells since they are rapidly dividing too. The typical ones include Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Daunorubicin, Taxotere, Ellence, Etoposide, Ifosfamide, Irinotecan, Topotecan, Navelbine, and so on.

2. Oral contraceptives. There are a variety of different types of birth control pills. The common active ingredients in them are estrogen and progesterone. However, the metabolic derivatives of progesterone have androgenic characteristics, which make it possibly trigger hair loss. For example, long-term use of norgestrel, an oral short-acting contraceptive, can lead to a high level of estrogen. In this case, abruptly stopping it tends to cause hormone imbalance and then trigger the onset of female pattern baldness. But good news is that it is usually not that serious. That’s to say, no treatment is unnecessary here and over time the hair will grow back on its own.

3. Ibuprofen. A recent report by the Government of New Zealand showed that long-term use of anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen could cause hair loss. Another study from the USA showed that 15 among 21 patients who had taken ibuprofen suffered from hair thinning or loss. But health experts said that there was no need to panic about it since such cases are rare.

4. β-blockers. Beta-adrenergic blocking agents are commonly used as antihypertensive and anti-arrhythmic drugs. But metoprolol and propranolol have been shown to cause baldness. But good news is that this is reversible. Besides, captopril, an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor), may also be linked to a loss of hair, which however needs further studies to confirm.

5. Isotretinoin. Isotretinoin capsules are one of common acne medications. The main active ingredient is retinoids, the derivative of vitamin A. Overdose of isotretinoin will damage hair follicles and lead to curls, damaged hair, and baldness. So, when it is used for acne the dose should be strictly controlled.

6. Others. Drug-induced hair loss also occurs by the use of arsenic, acetic acid, heparin, coumarin, daunorubicin, clofibrate, allopurinol, phenindione, carbimazole, thiouracil, phenytoin sodium, ethambutol, indomethacin, levodopa, methyldopa, nitrofurantoin, idoxuridine, ethionamide, gentamicin, and so on. A number of studies have confirmed that anticoagulants (heparin and warfarin) and a variety of antidepressants can cause baldness too. In addition, medications for psoriasis, epilepsy, and migraine can cause this health problem in 3 to 10 percent of the users.

Health experts pointed out that hair loss is an inevitable side effect in many drugs. In order to achieve the best therapeutic effect while minimizing the possible side effects, patients should promptly communicate with their physicians so that physicians can decide to make them stop taking or changing medication after weighing the pros and cons.

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