Among the many studies that have come out in the last two years regarding post viral complications, an interesting focus has been the role of viral infections and hair loss. While hair loss is seen as a cosmetic issue, many body systems are at play in this complex mechanism of action.
Described as acute telogen effluvium, post viral hair loss typically occurs 3 months after the stressful event that causes hair shedding and can last up to 6 months. What was interesting was that male patients have a higher risk of hair fall due to infection than female patients and that the more hair fall experienced by men was attributed to their higher androgen levels. The researchers went on to hypothesize that since testosterone seems to suppress the immune system, that individuals with higher levels of the male hormone such as in PCOS experience more hair fall and may be more susceptible to infection.
The mechanism of hair loss in the context of post viral infection seems to rest on the shoulders of DHT, a sex hormone created from testoterone. DHT binds to a receptor called androgen receptor activator. This receptor is found in higher levels in different ethnic groups. The working theory is that those with a higher levels of this receptor are more likely to have hair loss and also more likely to be susceptible to viral infections. Scientists hypothesize that a potential treatment for viral infections may actually be with the treatment of anti-androgens.
So what do we do with all this information? Well, viral infection or not, hair loss is something that is experienced by many men and women. For women, higher androgens can be linked to insulin resistance. The treatment for insulin resistance in the early stages rests on improving metabolic health. Increasing nutrition, counting net carbs, decreasing calories and intermittent fasting are strategies for improving insulin resistance in the early stages.
In conclusion, perhaps an association between post viral infections and hair fall could actually help us identify those with high androgens in those that this underlying issue may not be as easy to detect.