Hair loss due to a low ferritin level is one of the most common types of hair loss seen by trichologists. Although men can be affected, it is women who are most likely to be affected as blood loss during menstruation will reduce iron stores in the body.
Patients that have a low ferritin will often complain that they are shedding too much hair. Normal daily hair loss can be as much as 100 strands per day. This can increase quite dramatically with low ferritin, but no one person will know their own hair better than you – so an increase in hair shedding on what is ‘normal’ for you is the most important factor.
Ferritin is the name given to the amount of iron stored in our bodies. Our patients often come to us for consultation having already visited their GP where blood tests have indicated that iron level is ‘normal’. In this case, it is quite common that the GP has tested the iron and not the ferritin level. It is also common that even if the ferritin is within the ‘normal’ range, the level may still not be sufficient for optimal hair growth. A person can have a low ferritin level without being anaemic – therefore not showing many other symptoms.
The ‘normal’ range for ferritin levels for females is 12-150ng/mL, and a reading below 70ng/mL is known to affect the hair growth cycle. Hair grows in cycles known as anagen (growth), catagen (resting) and telogen (shedding). If we do not have a sufficient level of stored iron in our body, the duration for which an individual hair will grow during the growth phase will be reduced.
The result of the shortened anagen phase means that your hair cannot grow as long as it usually would and will fall out prematurely without reaching its maximum length. This can give the impression that your hair is not growing at all. In more extreme cases patients may notice some short hairs sticking up through the hair, and believe their hair is breaking off, but to the experienced trichologist, these hairs can easily be differentiated from breakage.
Iron supplementation is often necessary for low ferritin, and if a blood test indicates it your trichologist will be able to recommend the best level of supplementation for you. It is important to include iron rich foods in the diet, such as red meat, beans, lentils and even dark chocolate.
Our patients are then closely monitored over a period of several months and the supplement adjusted as necessary. Although it takes time, the hair loss caused by low ferritin is entirely reversible.
This information is intended as a guide only. Always seek personalised advice by your own trichologist.