Hair Loss? It May Be Iron Deficiency
Too Little Iron in Blood of Men and Women Shedding Hair
WebMD News Archive
Hair Loss May Be a Symptom of Serious Illness continued...
Cotsarelis and Trost say that what most doctors consider to be a normal
ferritin level is, in fact, too low. Ferritin levels of 10-15 ng/mL are within
the "normal" range. Cotsarelis says a ferritin level of at least 50
ng/mL is needed to help replenish hair. Trost and Bergfeld shoot for 70
"Doctors see ferritin levels in the normal range, and don't do
anything," Cotsarelis says. "But the normal range is wrong, I think.
The normal range for women is 10-120 ng/ML, and for men it is 30-250 ng/mL. Why
should a man's be lower than a woman's? Mostly because women are iron
deficient. It is almost a public health problem. Hair loss is only an
indication of this."
Cotsarelis and colleagues have found that women with hair loss have
significantly lower iron stores than women without hair loss. Surprisingly,
this was particularly true for women with alopecia areata, a form of hair loss
caused by haywire immune responses.
"Our theory is that lower iron levels decrease the threshold for
developing hair loss of any kind in genetically predisposed individuals,"
Cotsarelis says. "So people prone to develop even hereditary hair loss, if
their iron levels are low, it accelerates that process. We think it's because
the hair follicles grow so much, they require a lot of iron."
Women who frequently have heavy menstrual periods often become iron
deficient. "If you have a healthy woman with hair loss, you can assume iron
deficiency," Trost says.
Iron deficiency is less common in men and postmenopausal women than in women
of childbearing age. But it's something Cotsarelis and Trost see often in
people with hair loss. Especially when it gets to the point of
anemia, iron deficiency can be a symptom of very serious illness.
It's important for a doctor to find out why this is happening.
"If you have a man or a postmenopausal woman with iron-deficiency
anemia, you need to do a workup to find out why," Trost says. "Say you
have a 55-year-old man with iron-deficiency anemia -- it could be caused by
bleeding due to colon cancer. Believe it or
not, someone can come in complaining of hair loss, and find out it is something