Dealing with Hair Loss after Weight Loss Surgery
One of the most common questions that we get from patients before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery is, “Will I have hair loss after weight loss surgery?”
The short answer is maybe, but it will only be temporary.
Why Hair Loss Occurs After Bariatric Surgery
Hair shedding is typically encountered between 3 to 6 months following bariatric surgery. It is believed to result in part from a higher than normal amount of hair follicles entering a dormant state. The medical term for this is “telogen effluvium”. The condition can be seen in a host of other settings as well including, childbirth, severe emotional distress, and other major surgeries. In fact, hair loss is even encountered even when someone loses a significant amount of weight through dieting alone.
The good news is that hair loss after weight loss surgery rarely lasts more than 6 to 12 months and generally does not require any action unless other underlying causes are suspected. This type of hair loss does not lead to baldness and normal growth will eventually return. The bad news is that there’s no proven way to prevent this hair shedding from occurring in the first place.
When To Be Concerned About Hair Loss?
Although far less common, hair loss can also be a result of nutritional deficiencies after bariatric surgery. You should be suspicious of this possibility if:
- Hair loss persists beyond the first year of surgery
- Hair loss first begins more than six months after surgery
- There are significant ongoing issues maintaining adequate food intake due to severe difficulty swallowing, nausea or vomiting
- Blood testing demonstrates persistently low iron, zinc or protein levels
- Other symptoms of vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies exist
What Can You Do About Hair Loss?
Unfortunately, the mainstay of hair shedding after Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) is simply waiting for this process to run its course. Patients should ensure that their daily intake of protein is 60-80g and that they are consistently taking an appropriate vitamin regimen.
If there is a suspicion of a nutritional deficiency, the patient should be tested thoroughly, particularly for zinc, iron and B12 levels. It is also important to make sure that any suggested multivitamin contains zinc (8-22mg) and copper (1-2mg).
There has been some suggestion that supplementation with daily biotin (2.5mg) and flaxseed oil (15ml) may be beneficial for hair regrowth. While many patients swear by these supplements, there is little research to-date to support this claim.
For severe cases of hair shedding, some physicians recommend prescribing topical minoxidil (ROGAINE®) to maintain hair density and stimulate regrowth. However, there is not much research available to back up this claim either.
Are you considering weight loss surgery? Find some answers on whether you qualify by completing our Qualification Questionnaire and reading our latest blog post “Do I Qualify For Weight Loss Surgery?“.