Hair loss is a common problem after weight loss surgery. It can be worrying if large numbers of hair from the scalp come loose whilst brushing or combing. The shedding of hair from the head can lead to hair thinning and bald patches.
Should you be concerned about hair loss, or is this an expected side-effect of bariatric surgery?
Hair loss can happen with the gastric band, gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. Although, hair loss is more common generally with the gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy than with the gastric band. For most people, hair loss happens during the first 6 months after the weight loss operation. After 6 months, the hair usually regrows. So, most often there is no cause for alarm.
Why does hair loss happen after a weight loss operation?
To understand this problem, it is helpful to learn about the normal process of hair growth. The hair fibres are produced by tiny pits called hair follicles in the scalp. The hair follicles have a natural life-cycle. Ordinarily, most hair follicles in the scalp are in a growth phase (called ‘anagen’). A small number of follicles are in a resting phase (called ‘telogen’). Stressful events, like surgery and rapid weight loss, can provoke more follicles to enter the resting phase. The resting follicles usually transit back to the growth phase in few months. When follicles begin to grow again, the old hair is shed and it is replaced by a new hair. Obviously, the new hair takes some time to grow to length of the lost hair!
What can you do to prevent hair loss?
There is no specific prevention or treatment for hair loss. It is part of the normal reaction of the body to weight loss surgery. You will be advised to take a multi-vitamin and mineral capsule or syrup after all weight loss operations. It is important to take this vitamin and mineral supplement regularly. Also, follow the advice of the dietician carefully so that you are getting sufficient proteins and calories. If the hair loss continues beyond 6 months following the operation, then speak to your doctor and dietician to see if any action is necessary.