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Is There a Connection between Corticosteroids and Hair Loss?

By B. Leslie Baird
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The use of corticosteroids and hair loss are not strongly connected as a cause and effect. Corticosteroids are used to treat some forms of hair loss, however, so the main connection between corticosteroids and hair loss is that one is a treatment for the other. The biggest link between steroid use and hair loss comes from the use of anabolic steroids, which are the types of steroids that are sometimes used by athletes as performance-enhancing drugs. Corticosteroids are used to reduce inflammation.

Anabolic steroids, especially in high doses or with prolonged use, might cause hair loss and baldness. Some researchers do think that there is a link between all steroids, including corticosteroids, and hair loss. Although the use of corticosteroids and hair loss might not be directly linked, any prescription or non-prescription medication can have side effects.

Health experts generally do not connect the use of corticosteroids and hair loss, but many other adverse reactions might occur because of the use of corticosteroids. The use of these drugs is associated with potential impairment of the immune system, nausea and weight gain. High doses of steroids in this classification do have numerous other side effects, including the possibility for increased growth of facial hair.

Alopecia areata (AA) is considered the third-most-frequent type of hair loss. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in this category. Other factors for AA-related hair loss might include viruses, allergies and hormonal issues. Corticosteroids are frequently used as a treatment.

The treatment might be a corticosteroid cream applied to the area of hair loss. Other treatments include injections into the balding area. In extreme cases, a systemic corticosteroid, in pill form, will be prescribed. Systemic treatments are used for short durations because of the numerous side effects that can result. Side effects might also be noticed during withdrawal from corticosteroid treatments.

Many hair loss experts believe that several common prescription drugs might cause temporary or permanent hair loss. This type of side effect does vary from patient to patient. Drugs that might come with a hair loss warning include anticoagulants, anticonvulsants and antidepressants. Certain antifungal medications, beta-blockers and even diet medications might also include this warning.

There are several key words that one should consider when investigating the side effects of any medication. "May cause" and "can cause" are words that are frequently attached to warning labels. Each individual might, or might not, experience any or all of the listed conditions. Reactions to medication are also often based on combinations of prescription and non-prescription medications being used.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On May 27, 2012

@pastanaga - It's unknown because it's fairly complicated. Hair growth might not seem like it's all that mysterious, but the hair goes through quite a few stages of growth and they aren't all that straightforward.

Humans like to think they have the natural world all figured out but there are quite a few, if not most medications that we use because they work, not because we really understand how they work. Steroids are no different.

If we had a true and deep understanding about how everything worked, we wouldn't need to test medicines so much. We'd just be able to put together chemicals and know exactly what they'd do.

By pastanaga — On May 26, 2012

@croydon - Well, hair growth seems to be a kind of final frontier I've noticed. I mean, we've got to the point where we can grow an ear in a lab, but we still haven't really found a reliable method for removing hair, and if hair is gone, we don't have a reliable method for making it come back.

It seems like the kind of thing that we would have come up with a solution for a long time ago, particularly when there are so many medications which can cause hair loss.

But, scientists are still shooting in the dark to some extent. They know that steroids can cause hair loss, but not exactly why. They know that other steroids can cause hair to grow, but not exactly why that either.

I'm looking forward to the day when they can make hair grow or disappear at a whim, but it still seems quite far away.

By croydon — On May 25, 2012

I didn't realize that anabolic steroids can cause hair loss. It makes me wonder why there aren't more sports stars walking around without any hair. Although, I suppose if it comes down to it, they can afford the hair plugs.

I have heard that male pattern baldness can be related to higher testosterone levels, so maybe it's linked to that somehow?

It's interesting that doctors don't really seem to know what causes the hair loss or whether it's related to all steroids or just anabolic steroids.

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