Hair loss and neck pain might not seem connected but when you consider the role and position of the thyroid gland in the neck it should become more apparent as to why we’re discussing hair loss on a site about neck pain. The thyroid gland is an important part of the anatomy of the neck, and when the thyroid becomes dysfunctional it can cause numerous problems, including hair loss. Where a pain in the neck occurs along with thinning hair, loss of eyebrows, trouble concentrating, and even constipation and fatigue, suspicion should fall on the thyroid gland.
Causes of Hair Loss
Both acute and chronic hair loss can occur due to a variety of reasons, with changes observed in the amount, thickness, strength, and quality of the hair. As the hair is one of the fastest growing parts of the body, it is incredibly useful as a diagnostic tool to assess both a person’s general health, and nutritional status. Causes of hair loss include infections, problems with both testosterone and estrogen levels, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and illness. Serious diseases, such as diabetes and lupus can also cause hair loss, as can excessive vitamin A, blood thinning medications (such as Warfarin and Aspirin), and drugs for gout and blood pressure.
Another common reason for hair loss is a dysfunctional thyroid gland. The thyroid is located in the front of the neck, around the trachea, and common signs of thyroid problems include changes in bowel habits, heat/cold intolerance, increased appetite and changes in weight (both loss and gain), dry skin or excessive sweating, fatigue, weakness, nervousness, inability to concentrate, poor memory, and thin, brittle hair and nails. As the thyroid gland is in the neck, any swelling or enlargement of this gland (a common feature of thyroid disease known as goitre) may cause referred pain in the neck, neck stiffness, problems swallowing, and even alterations in the tone and pitch of voice due to vocal chord compression.
The thyroid regulates metabolism, ensuring the body’s maintenance of homeostasis and coordination of energy. Specific nutrients are needed to maintain optimal thyroid function, including iodine and selenium, with deficiency and excess of these connected to both hypo- and hyperthyroidism, along with autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Self-diagnosing, and self-medicating with these nutrients, is not a good idea as they are toxic in excess, may mask other problems, and can exacerbate the condition. Excessive iodine, for example, can concentrate in the thyroid gland triggering an autoimmune response that leads to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Many countries opt to iodize culinary salt so as to stave off a potential deficiency, which should be considered when assessing daily iodine intake. Other sources of iodine include seaweed products, fish, shellfish, yogurt, cow’s milk, eggs, strawberries, and mozzarella cheese. Selenium can be found in brazil nuts, numerous fish including salmon and sardines, barley, and mushrooms, particularly shiitake. Eaten in excess, any of these foods could have negative consequences for thyroid health, although they are likely to be beneficial for the thyroid gland when eaten in moderation.
If the thyroid becomes dysfunctional then there can be a lack of energy throughout the system and the body will prioritize other functions over the growth and maintenance of healthy hair. General fatigue, hair loss, and neck pain can be signs of stress, fibromyalgia, lupus, and other conditions and so it is important for a physician to consider a number of differential diagnoses. Loss of general body hair is common in thyroid disease, with many people noticing the loss of the outer third of their eyebrows in particular. Sufferers will notice more hair falling out in the shower and collecting in the drains, and also more hair in their hair brush. There are not normally bald spots in this condition, rather a general thinning of the hair. If there are bald spots this may indicate a sign of infection, particularly by fungus, or an unrelated autoimmune issue not connected to the thyroid.
Baldness from Aging
Hair loss on the temples and the top of the head are usually indicative of male pattern baldness and occur due to a change in the type and level of testosterone in the body. Dihydrotestosterone is the less potent testosterone form that begins to dominate as both men and women age. This form is responsible in part for problems of the prostate gland and other characteristics of aging in men. The conversion of testosterone into this lesser form is actually sped up in thyroid disease and may accentuate the loss of hair, problems with weight management, and experience of fatigue.
Read on for more information regarding menopause, thyroid problems, hair loss, and the prognosis for reversing hair loss and neck pain.