Metformin Side Effects: Is Hair Loss A Genuine Concern?
Metformin is a drug that doctors prescribe to people with type2 diabetes and sometimes to people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin (blood sugar-regulating hormone), or the body cells do not effectively react to insulin, leading to less sugar uptake. PCOS is a disease in females. It causes the ovaries to produce excessive amounts of male hormone androgen, eventually leading to excessive hair growth, pimples, irregular periods, and infertility. PCOS patients also sometimes suffer from elevated sugar and pressure. Although doctors prescribe Metformin for the above conditions, most people are concerned about whether it causes alopecia (hair loss) in individuals. Nevertheless, only a few proofs exist to assist the assertion .
The article will explain the connection between hair loss and Metformin, the side effects of Metformin, hair loss causes, and some tips to reduce hair loss in people experiencing it. The article will also answer some queries that people would like to know about Metformin and hair loss.
Causes of Hair Loss
People on Metformin might face hair loss due to some other reasons. Some reasons to consider for hair thinning while on metformin medication are listed below-
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- High blood sugar
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Individuals with PCOS experience hair fall as the usual symptom and increased hair growth in other body areas viz; face due to elevated levels of the body’s male hormone androgen.
High blood sugar
- Increased blood sugar for a prolonged period might destroy the blood vessels responsible for supplying nutrients to the hair, thus contributing to hair loss.
- Individuals with PCOS and high blood sugar might influence the body’s hormone levels, contributing to hair loss.
- Any health issues viz; PCOS, diabetes increase the body’s stress level, which might in turn lead to momentary hair thinning
Some other causes of hair loss are as follows-
- Thyroid problem
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Certain medication side effects .
Side Effects of Metformin
Metformin has some adverse effects. Some of the common adverse effects are listed below-
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach gas (bloating)
- Diarrhea (watery stool)
- Difficulty in clearing bowels
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Reduced weight .
What is the biggest side effect of metformin?
- Too much metformin intake can cause serious side effects, viz; lactic acidosis. It is one of the most severe adverse effects of Metformin and has a boxed warning (FDA warning).
- Lactic acidosis is the condition when the body either produces excess lactate or if the body is incapable of utilizing the lactate. It might occur more rapidly when the patient has other health issues like heart disease, kidney problems, and cancer.
- Taking blood pressure drugs and corticosteroids along with Metformin might also increase the chances of lactic acidosis. It is a severe issue that needs prompt medical attention. Research has found that the metformin-related fatality rate of lactic acidosis is around 50%.
- Some of the symptoms of lactic acidosis are as follows-
- Appetite loss
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficult breathing
- Irregular heart rate
- Chilling sensation
- Skin reddening and warmth .
Does Metformin Cause Hair Loss?
- To date, there is little confirmation to indicate that Metformin causes alopecia (hair loss).
- One research study indicated that a Type2 diabetes patient on Metformin and sitagliptin (another diabetic drug) had eyelash hair loss and eyebrows. It could be due to the drug’s adverse effects, but it was not completely obvious.
- Yet another study recommended that prolonged metformin use can cause a decline in the body’s folate and vitamin B12 .
- Some studies found a connection between elevated sugar levels and hair loss .
- Suppose a vitamin B12 deficient individual is taking metformin drug for increased sugar level. In that case, the hair loss encountered by him might be due to some other reasons and not specifically due to Metformin .
What does Metformin do for your hair?
- According to studies, Metformin decreases the probability of hair loss in people with PCOS. One of the symptoms of PCOS is hair thinning, so treating the disease with Metformin might reduce hair fall.
Does Metformin cause thicker hair?
- Hair loss due to increased body sugar levels is a temporary condition. Therefore, maintaining the sugar level with Metformin might prevent hair thinning and promote improved hair health.
Metformin hair loss recovery
- Metformin does not indicate a direct impact on hair loss recovery. But Metformin does help regulate the correct sugar levels in the body, which might help reduce hair loss.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Individuals with hair thinning while on Metformin must speak to a health professional about the connection between vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and Metformin. Our body needs the correct amount of cobalamin to function appropriately, although not in elevated amounts. Minimal amounts of cobalamin in the body can cause the following severe adverse effects-
- Hair thinning
- Appetite loss
- Decreased weight
- Difficulty clearing the bowels
- Metformin may increase the adverse effects of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Individuals on Metformin and with hair thinning must check their blood levels for vitamin B12 and speak to the doctor for advice on Vitamin B12 replenishment. Some of the diet containing vitamin B12 is milk, egg, fish, and beef. However, depending on the individual’s need, the physician might recommend a vitamin B12 supplement 7Deficiency | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health.
Home Remedies for Hair Loss
Individuals can do certain things at home to prevent the hair from thinning. Some of them are listed below-
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Avoid stress by engaging in enjoyable activities viz; dancing, reading, and painting.
- Avoid tying the hair too hard; that might cause hair loss
- Avoid heat treatments to the hair viz; curling and straightening
- Avoid rough brushing of the hair as it can make the hair thinning condition even worse .
Situation needing medical attention for hair loss
If one notices uncontrollable hair fall within a few days or weeks, speak to the physician immediately to know the underlying cause and prompt treatment.
Situations in which one needs medical attention are listed below-
- Unexpected hair loss
- Rapid hair loss
- Anxiety due to hair loss 10 Home Remedies| Researched based study from National Institutes of Health.
FAQs About Metformin
Q. Does Metformin cause hair growth in PCOS?
- PCOS is a disease that causes high sugar and unwanted hair growth in the face.
- Research has indicated that the metformin- treated women group with PCOS enhanced hair growth compared to those not on metformin treatments.
- The improved hair growth might be due to glucose regulation to an average level due to metformin intake .
Q. Does Metformin reduce unwanted hair?
- Yes, Metformin might reduce unwanted hair growth. A clinical trial demonstrated that PCOS individuals on Metformin improved the hirsutism symptoms with decreased unwanted facial hair growth .
Q. What is safer than Metformin?
The salicylate can be an excellent alternative to Metformin for people who cannot take Metformin due to specific reasons. Salicylate works in a similar mode as that of Metformin and helps in blood sugar control. Several studies indicated salicylate viz; salsalate to be a safe medication for type 2 diabetes treatments. Some of the other alternatives to metformin drug are listed below-
However, always speak to the health professional to know the suitable alternative to Metformin to avert adverse effects.
Q. Does Metformin cause weight loss?
The United States Food and Drug Administration have not approved Metformin as a weight-reducing drug. Yet individuals on Metformin might reduce weight as an adverse effect, though the drug mechanism for it is indistinct.
Loss of appetite
- Studies have indicated that Metformin makes one eat less, decreasing the appetite.
- Metformin might obstruct the intestine’s microbial communities, releasing chemicals that suppress the appetite.
- Other adverse effects of Metformin are nausea and stomach gas, which might also affect the individual’s ability to eat .
Extended weight loss
- A prolonged study on diabetic individuals indicated weight reduction for 15 years. Studies also found that individuals on Metformin who lost 5% weight in the initial year had an increased probability of maintaining a fit weight in 5 to 15 years.
- Yet, taking the metformin medication without adopting a healthy diet and exercise might not contribute to weight loss.
- Moreover, weight loss in individuals persists only during the metformin-taking period, and individuals might get back the original weight after stopping the drug .
Metformin is Not an Assured Cause of Hair Loss
- Many medications might cause hair thinning, which can cause strain on the underlying treated health condition. Metformin is not the assured cause of hair thinning.
- The treated diseases of Metformin viz; PCOS and type 2 diabetes have hair loss as the usual symptom. Thus, the individual’s hair thinning might be due to the health issue rather than the metformin drug.
Diabetic and PCOS patients on Metformin must check other probable causes of hair loss viz; anxiety, blood sugar, and vitamin deficiency so that the health provider might identify the specific hair thinning cause and advise precise therapeutics.