Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery
Losing hair is a relatively common, albeit temporary occurrence after bariatric surgery. The hair loss associated with bariatric surgery involves natural hair growth cycles. Because of the physical stresses of surgery and the concurrent reduction in caloric intake, a greater than usual number of hair follicles may become dormant. These dormant hair follicles are more likely to be lost in the months after surgery.
The greatest degree of hair loss occurs between approximately three and six months after the operation and the most common causes include:
- Physical stress of the procedure
- Reduced vitamin and caloric intake, especially in gastric bypass patients
- Hormonal changes
However, there are other causes of hair loss not related to surgery including:
- Genetics / heredity
- Chemical or heavy metal toxicity
- Poor dietary habits
Even though most patients regain their hair’s former fullness soon after they lose it, the interim can be frustrating and stressful.
Prospects for Regrowth
Most patients see regrowth of their hair within six months of starting to shed. This can be a total of up to one year after surgery. Only the hair loss directly resultant of the surgical procedure will regrow. If the patient is also losing hair due to genetics (male pattern baldness, for example) exposure to toxic substances, chemotherapy or disease this hair may not regrow as quickly or at all.
Doing Something About Hair Loss
Because hair loss after bariatric surgery is a temporary event, we suggest no major hair regrowth treatments be undertaken within the first year or so after surgery. During this time, there is an excellent chance of hair regrowing to the fullness and thickness from before surgery. However, if the patient is losing hair due to other causes, including illness or genetics, they may wish to speak to a specialist to learn about their options. No matter what the decision, it is important to notify your surgeon about any medical treatments.
What You Can Do To Minimize Hair Loss
- Follow your post-bariatric surgery diet closely. We have tailored the diet to balance weight loss with minimizing the effects of caloric restriction. Do not eat less than prescribed or more than you should, as both can lead to problems.
- Be sure to take your bariatric vitamins and do not miss your follow-up appointments. You will be evaluated regularly for nutritional deficiencies and your bariatric vitamins ensure your body is receiving the appropriate nutritional supplementation.
- Hair loss can also be indicative of other diseases that may not have been detected prior to surgery. If you suspect another condition is causing hair loss, visit your primary care physician or specialist to undergo testing and receive a proper diagnosis.
- Most importantly, reduce your stress and anxiety level especially as it relates to your hair loss. By adding emotional stress on top of the physical stress of surgery, you increase the chance of prolonging the hair loss phase. Knowing the hair loss is temporary should put your mind at ease.
If the prospect of hair loss after surgery is getting you down, we suggest you bring it up at our next support group meeting. Most patients will have dealt with the same issue. Speaking to other patients that understand what you’re going through and have overcome the same challenges can be very helpful to your peace of mind.