Does Liver Disease Cause Hair Loss?

Some of the most common symptoms of liver disease are jaundice, upper abdominal pain, or tendency to bruise. But since the liver plays a role for many body functions, the disease can also affect many other parts of the body. Does it also cause hair loss?

Hair loss is not a specific symptom of liver disease. But since the liver is involved to process fat and androgen hormones, poor function of your liver might also affect the health of your hair follicles. In fact, hair loss is quite common in people with cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis

It is a progressive liver damage in which healthy tissues of the liver are replaced by hard scar tissues. Typically, it develops gradually over many months or years. If left untreated, the buildup of hard scar tissues will eventually cause liver failure.

Excessive use of alcohol and infections (especially such as hepatitis B or C) are the most common causes of cirrhosis. Early diagnosis is crucial for the outlook and prognosis of the condition. Advanced cirrhosis is more difficult to treat, leading to worse outcome.

Cirrhosis may also cause hair loss, depending on the severity of the scarring. Cirrhosis-related hair loss usually occurs with the following common symptoms of the disease:

  1. Jaundice, when the eyes & skin take on a yellow color.
  2. Tendency to bleed or bruise easily.
  3. Swelling in the legs, ankles, or abdomen.
  4. Intense, itchy skin.
  5. Fatigue and weakness.
  6. Unintentional weight loss and appetite loss.
  7. Tenderness, swelling, or pain in the upper abdomen where the liver is located.

It’s harder to reverse the liver damage caused by cirrhosis. The goal of cirrhosis treatment is to help sustain the liver function, prevent the disease from getting worse, and maintain the rest of healthy liver tissues.

So it’s important to treat the liver damage before it becomes advanced. Unfortunately inflammation of the liver, which is usually the starting point for most types of liver disease (including liver fibrosis and cirrhosis), often doesn’t cause any symptoms! If the inflammation does cause symptoms, they are usually not specific (vogue).

What helps with liver disease and hair loss?

The exact way of how hair loss occurs with liver disease may be still debatable. But it seems that excess sebum is probably one of the answers. Insufficient enzymes released from the liver, for example co-enzyme A, may cause more fats to be released as sebum through the pores of your scalp.

Actually, sebum is required to moisturize your hair follicles so they they’re not easy to get brittle or dry. Also, it is responsible to help maintain the pH balance of your scalp. But when it’s produced too much, this could be counterproductive. Too much sebum can impair the normal cycle of your hair growth. This will also drive more dandruff, another common culprit for hair falling out.

If your hair loss is associated with poor function of your liver, improving your liver health is a must. Depending on the severity of your liver problem, a few lifestyle measures may be helpful enough to cope with.

Keep weight off!

In general, being obese has nothing to do with the health of your hair. But extra pounds you gain can cause more extra fats that build up in your liver, increasing the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This can harden or scar liver tissues over time, which may eventually cause cirrhosis and liver failure if left untreated.

Your diet can help a lot!

High consumption of refined grains, sugars, dairy products, and fats (including trans-fats) are bad for your liver health. Also, they could factor into excess sebum in the scalp.

Fatty foods and trans-fats (typically listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ label, which can be found easily in many packaged and baked foods) can make weight gain more likely. Too much dietary fats may also have a role to drive more sebum. Based on this logic, it’s worth a try to reduce fat from your diet.

Eating lots of refined sugars and grains can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. To respond this rapid change, the body releases high amounts of hormones, such as insulin and androgen hormones. And increased production of androgens may also increase dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is often associated with male pattern baldness. Moreover — frequent, uncontrolled high amounts of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream will hurt your liver. In fact, chronic high blood sugar (diabetes) can increase the risk of some types of liver disease.

Also, avoid /restrict common culprits that are bad for your liver health, such as;

  1. If you drink, make sure that you drink ‘No more than’ your liver can process. So take it only in moderation – that’s about 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women!
  2. Soft drinks. Studies suggest that high consumption of sodas will make non-alcoholic fatty liver disease more likely.

See more what to eat for healthy liver here!

Use medications carefully!

OTC pain relievers are often used to help relieve many different health complaints such as cold, back pain, and headache. But although they are available over-the-counter, this doesn’t mean they have no any risks. Acetaminophen, for example, is one of common OTC pain relievers that may provoke liver damage if it’s used improperly. That’s why make sure to check the dose — if possible, use it at lowest dose possible!

Too much supplements could also be counterproductive. For instance, vitamin A supplements may hurt your liver if you use it excessively (higher than your body needs). If you have liver disease and need to consume high doses of vitamin A, consult first with your doctor!

The same goes for herbal supplements, take them carefully! Even though the label says ‘herbal’, they are not completely safe – even some could be dangerous for your liver!

Stress management

It’s well established that stress and other psychological problems can also affect the overall health of the body, including the liver and hair follicles. See also the link between stress and hair loss in this post!

So it’s important to soothe your stress as well. Though many times it’s inevitable, you can manage it!

And don’t go with things that can make your stress, liver damage, and hair loss get worse! Sometimes the things you do to cope with stress only worsen the problems. For examples; cigarette smoking, drinking more alcohol, skipping healthy meals or eating more junk foods, and withdrawing from people (social isolation) are unhealthy ways of dealing with stress!