Avatar universal

Rapid Hair Loss, Acne, Exhaustion, in 20 yo female

I'm a fairly healthy 20 year old studying abroad at the moment.
But the past two or so months, I've been losing a lot of hair. The rate at which this is happening is very rapid---literally, weekly, I can see the difference in hair volume when I look in the mirror and take a pictures. For a while, I've been losing a lot of hair, it's been visibly thinning, and getting dryer.

At the same time, my skin has been prone to a lot of breakout---in the beginning, just oily, then getting pimply, and now still pimply but with dull, rough texture---I feel like I literally look sick.

The difference in my appearance is large, and it's frightening me. Especially since I'm also feeling exhausted very easily, I find it difficult to concentrate on my work, my eyesight is getting worse (some days are worse than others), and I find myself coming home straight after class, not having the endurance to do anything else. I just want to nap all the time. Sometimes even walking for 30 minutes wears me out. My mind also feels a bit chaotic at times as well, "cloudy" and confused.

I have occasional chest pains as well--though not piercing, a bit uncomfortable (on both sides of my lungs).

I've gone to the doctor several times for bloodtests but they aren't taking me seriously. My results came back "normal" and as "perfectly healthy" twice. But the changes have been so dramatic that I'm convinced something is wrong. I know that hair loss can happen 3-4 weeks after the initial stress. But I've been here three months and it's still just getting worse. Although I WAS very stressed in September and October, I'm much better now. Just my appearance is stressing me out.

If my blood test results came out fine, but I feel like my symptoms are just getting worse but not better, what could this mean?

If you'd like to see my bloodtest results, please let me know.
18 Responses
Avatar universal
It would be helpful if you included your blood results.  I'm hoping to see some thyroid studies, CBC and ferritin level.  I'm not sure if your regular doctor would have run hormonal bloodwork, but that would be nice.

Is your hairloss all over your head (diffuse) or in patches or male patterned?  Is it itchy with dandruff?  Do you have heavy periods?  Do you have any intestinal symptoms?  Any rashes?
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for you quick reply! I really appreciate this since I'm been so stressed out about this and it's happening at a rapid rate.

What is CBC by the way?
I'm new to the lingo so please let me know which specific thyroid works you'd like to see. I'm listing the ones I assume you are talking about:

FT3 Reference: 2.0-5.0 pg/mL   2.4
FT4 Reference 7.0-20.0 pg/mL   13.6
TSH Reference 0.220-4.600 mU/L 0.728
Ferritin Reference 15-200 ng/mL 105

Let me know if there are more things I forgot.

As for my hair, it's pretty diffuse, thinning in general, and especially at the crown of my head. No dandruff, my hair tends to be on the oilier side though (it's not as oily nowadays though, for some reason). No intestinal symptoms, I don't think I have any rashes, but my skin seems "abnormal" in that the rashes from old acne are taking much longer to heal, and the redness seems to be remaining.

**Just additional, I was researching just now and I am convinced i'd like to get tested for Lupus and Hashimotos (get tested for antibodies). It seems like I have some classic symptoms. But since my bloodwork "seems" to be very normal, I don't know what to do. I'm in Italy, so things are a bit more complex and I have a limited group of doctors to my access.** I'm very worried though, and was considering looking for an endocrinologist somewhere here in Florence.
Avatar universal
Oh and I forgot to mention, I do tend to have heavier periods although I've skipped two of them the past two months but got mine this month.
Avatar universal
There are two doctors that you need to see .... a dermatologist and an endocrinologist.
You'll need to find out if your hairloss is autoimmune or hormonal.  Your thyroid studies look pretty good.  Your ferritin level is fine.  

Are you overweight or underweight?  Do you have excessive body hair - look up PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)?  See if you fit any of those symptoms.  And is there any females with hairloss in either side of your family?  Anybody have celiac disease - lack enzymes to digest gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats)?  

CBC = complete blood count.  It measures your red blood cells and white blood cells and platelets, etc.  

It's possible stress from before could still be effecting your hair. If it is stress effecting your hair, it will eventually grown back within a year.  Do you normally miss periods at times?  And has your diet changed since you've been in Italy?  

I completely understand your stress....I have three kids who've been losing their hair since they were eight years old.  I'm also in the process of trying to find out what's causing it.  If you see an endocrinologist, he'll run all kinds of blood work.  Hang in there.   If you have any questions, just leave me  a message.  Or if you just need to vent because "it's scary"...I'll talk with you.  Make appts. now - it takes a while to get in to the specialists.  
Avatar universal
meniere 135,

You are so caring! Thanks so much...i'll be sure to keep you updated on what's going on.

I visited a British doctor here in Florence yesterday and he was so helpful! He agreed to let me take all the tests that I feel I need. So I went to get analyzed for antibodies (I know that sometimes you can have Hashimotos but without any thyroid symptoms in the normal bloodtest) I got my results just about an hour ago, and i'll share them.

My bloodcount seems okay according to all the doctors:

White blood cells: 5100
Red blood cells: 4300000

It's hard translating from Italian, but here goes:

Antibody Anti Tirreoglobulin UI/mL   NONE
Antibody Anti Microsomal Antibody Titer Ul/mL  8

Then Protein C reattiva (not sure what that means) mg/dL 0.04

**Planning on getting tested for Lupus, Mono....and how do you know if you have Celiac disease?

Answers to your questions:

-My weight is fine, although I lost a bit of weight over here
-No hairloss in the family, what do you consider having "too much" hair? Do you mean abnormally so? Or just having a lot of hair?
- I've definitely missed my periods before. Recently, i've missed September and October, got mine in November very of track from the usual time.
- My diet change completely over here, which is to be expected.
    Breakfast- mainly cakes, breakfast biscuits
    Lunch- Sandwiches, pizza, pasta
    DInner- Pasta, some protein, some vegetable
***I used to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, varied diet I think. But the Italian doctor is convinced that the Mediterranean diet is perfect, that what i'm eating is perfectly healthy and it shouldn't be causing any problems at all.

Do you suggest I also make an appointment for a dermatologist? Thanks so much...this is really frightening, but I'm trying to be optimistic about it.

Lots of love,
Avatar universal
Celiac disease can range from few symptoms to many symptoms. It causes many deficiencies in the body and many symptoms.  And it's associated with many autoimmune diseases.  You'll have to research it because there is not enough room on here to write it all down.  But the above diet you have been eating is almost all wheat products.  I know the Mediterranean diet is said to be the perfect diet, but that doesn't mean it's good for everyone.    I was asking about the body hair because of the possibility of PCOS.  I'm hoping it was the stress you were under a few months ago that is causing all this to happen.  Your hormones will take a few months to return to normal.  But stressful times can give way to autoimmune reactions also.  

A dermatologist is definitely needed for input.  Another problem is that doctors might interpret your hormone levels differently.  That was the case with my oldest daughter - one doctor said her bloodwork was fine, another said "She needs to see an endocrinologist!"  So that's always a problem.  

I'm reading this at 1 a.m.  I don't know the blood work results that you posted above.  I'll check into them tomorrow.  I'm really hoping this is just stress related.   Hopefully, your periods will become regular again and all the hormones will return to a balanced state and the hairloss will stop.  I'll keep checking your posts.  In the meantime, enjoy Italy!
Avatar universal
Yes, I've looked at some of the symptoms for Celiacs, and I don't have a lot of the symptoms such as feeling gassy or having diarreha. Just the hair part and feeling weak. But it's true, almost everything I've been eating here includes wheat. If I am looking at my test results correctly, if anti-body levels are non-existent or low, it's a good thing. The higher your anti-bodies are the higher your chances of having Celiac's as well.

But I also hear that some Celiac patients have fine anti-bodies as well. This is quite frustrating, how a lot of these diseases/ problems that I'm looking into seem to have a lot of "buts".

Yes, hopefully everything will eventually taper off instead of getting worse! Please do get back to me today when you're in a better state! I'd love to hear your analysis of my results. Thanks so much, i'll continue to give you updates, especially on Monday when I go see my doctor.

Avatar universal
I often think the best and easiest thing to do is to just try the celiac diet and see if you feel alot better!    But the problem is, if you don't get tested and get a definite diagnosis, it can be hard to stick to the diet and believe that is the problem.  And the other problem is you are in Italy with lots and lots of gluten!  LOL!  And then there is gluten intolerance - you don't have the enzymes or enough enzymes to break down the gluten, but you aren't producing antibodies in an autoimmune reaction like you do with celiac disease.  You don't seem to have inflammation in the body according to your results.  

After your appts. with the doctors, let me know what they think.  Then we'll go from there.  Good luck!    
Avatar universal
It's Wednesday and you haven't mentioned the Monday doctor appt.  What did they say?
Avatar universal
Hi meniere!

Thanks so much for checking up on me!
yes, I did go to the doctor, but several of the results didn't come in yet, so I have to go see him again either today or on Monday. I'm kind of bogged by work today though, so I'm not sure if it's wise for me to go out. (Also going to be out this weekend to Venice so, I have a ton of hw to plow through today!)

About my diet though, not eating gluten for a week has actually made me feel MUCH better! I can concentrate better, see better even, am happier (!?!) and just more awake. It's so bizarre! I also bought some vitamins B complex and fish oil in addition to my biotin and multi-vitamin for my skin and hair and just to get back on track. I was wondering though, if you have any other recommendations for how to take care of hair loss (naturally)? Or how long it might take for the hair to cease thinning or falling out if following this regimen?

I also found out that there are lots of Celiacs in Italy! So I went to the pharmacy (where they do sell all sorts of stuff) to buy gluten free bread, rice crackers, and gluten free cookies :D). I'm eating sandwiches for lunch and rice crackers with honey and jam and some fruit for breakfast. Also some cheese on the side sometimes for calcium.

I am going to go see him Monday for sure however, but looking at the test results (they seemed to just be negative/positive tests) and all of them came out negative if I remember correctly. So as a whole, I think I'm rather quite healthy, except for my allergic reactions to gluten. To be sure though, we might be running some other tests or I might be forwarded to a specialist or may be i'll ask to see a dermatologist.

I'll definitely get back to you on Monday about the appointment and meanwhile, if you have any things you want to mention or any suggestions about how to get my health back on track, PLEASE let me know!

Thanks so much for being so attentive! You are so caring, and it's wonderful to hear from you when I'm so far from home!
Avatar universal
I have a question.  Is your acne starting to clear up on the diet?  I'm sure your hairloss must have something to do with hormones.  When male hormones get too high compared to the female hormones, oily skin and hair and acne (especially acne along the jawline and back, etc.) and hairloss can result.  Now, it's possible the gluten free diet might help straighten your hormones out.  The gluten, when not tolerated, causes deficiencies in practically all areas.  All the food and nutrients that we swallow ultimately feed our hormones and everything else that goes on in the body.  Chelated zinc 50 mg (zinc can act as an antiandrogen in the hair follicle).  But if you take it for too long (probably past a month or so) you have to worry about copper (because copper is on a seesaw with zinc - when one goes up, the other goes down)  They need to be in balance.  Too much or too little of zinc or copper can cause hairloss.  But the gluten problem causes malabsorption of zinc - so you should start absorbing your zinc (red meat!) soon since you started the diet.  Since all your other symptoms started at the same time and they are improving, give the diet time to see if the hairloss stops.  How much time?.....that's always the big question....everyone is different.  You definitely should be stopping in three months, I would think.  Look for your skin to clear up, less oil in the hair - that says the male hormones are on the downslide and your female hormones are taking over.  Estrogen and progesterone in the right balance hold hair in the head.  Caffeine causes stress hormones to rise - so avoid that because stress hormones in excess pull away from progesterone, causing less estrogen and testosterone to be made (not good!).  Sugar is another no-no!  Causes insulin and cortisol to rise, again making a mess of things.  So - gluten free, low sugar, low caffeine, and low cow's milk products ( my daughter gets acne in areas that men get acne - along the jawline, all over her back and chest when she eats or drinks it).  Supplements?  Maybe some magnesium (80% of people with hairloss have low magnesium), zinc 50 mg chelated (4 days on and 4 days off to prevent high levels), calcium (make sure you take in leafy greens - look on the internet for sources of calcium), omega 3's, b-complex, and a multivitamin.  Keep your stress levels down - stay out in the sun (vitamin D is awesome) each day for a little while.  Note:  gluten free bread does best if you microwave each slice about 30-40 seconds on high - it moistens the bread (opposite of wheat containing breads that dry out in the microwave).  Same for all gluten free bread products.  I have yet to find a good gluten free pizza.  

By the way, the reason I suggested the gluten free diet was because you complained of worsening vision - my brother and I also had that same exact problem along with the extreme fatigue and we both were shocked to see much more clearly on the diet!  Go figure.  Hang in there!  You're obviously pretty intelligent due to how you've approached this whole thing.  And the most amazing thing is that you actually gave the diet a try!  Good for you!  I see you are a problem solver.  Enjoy your time in Italy - my husband said Venice smells like a sewer (he's Italian by the way LOL!)  He ruined my dream of a gondola ride in Venice!!!!!   His family comes from Abruzzi!  I told him he should go back and find a nice Italian wife that can put up with him.  As for me, I walk off into the sunset with my suitcase (containing a clothespin for my nose) as I head for Venice to ride  my gondola driven by Antonino the Gondola Man!!!!!  Antonino and I live happily ever after..............AAAHHHHHHHHHHH!  I hope my husband doesn't read this!  LOL!
Just kidding!    Don't forget to update me with the next doctor appt. or if you need recipes.  Talk to you soon!
Avatar universal
Hi meniere! Thanks for your long response! You have such a great sense of humor :P
I'll give you a more detailed account once i have time (since finals and everything are bogging me down as of right now). But the time being, I planned on visiting the dermatologist and getting futher tests done on my testosterone levels and such today but I had too much to do and I actually felt really weak and tired today for some reason. May be a tad bit of gluten snuck into my diet yesterday or something.

My skin *seems* to be clearing, but not sure if it's because of the new acne medication I bought for on spot treatment. I still have a very pale, kind of sickly tone to my skin though which is very depressing. It is also uneven in tone :(... My hair seems to be continuously thinning unfortunately, although I'm not shedding like crazy. This is really taking a toll on my appearance and it makes me depressed when I look in the mirror. I have no idea what else I can do to help my hair right now...and I will be returning to the states in about two weeks (on the 22nd of this month). What else do you think I should try doing to stop my hair from thinning (this especially is making me worried)?

I'll definitely update you on my next dermatology appt and will get my tests done hopefully really soon. I'm hoping that all of this annoying chaos would just stop.
Avatar universal
Maybe try some Rogaine 5% foam (they say the foam is less greasy and easier to spread on the scalp).  Note:  Initially, Rogaine opens up the hair follicles that are shrinking, causing the hair to fall out (only the hair that is falling out to begin with).  These hairs will grow back because the hairfollicle is still alive.  So don't panic.  This is normal at first.  Read up on it first.

Did your skin tone improve at first on the diet or no?   I'm guessing it's your hormone imbalance causing that...but we can't know for sure.  I'm glad your coming home.  Maybe this will help alleviate your stress.  What is your nationality?

Remember - no coffee or caffeinated beverages, low on sugar, etc. These things increase stress hormones - your finals are doing a fine job increasing stress levels by themselves - lets not help it along.  

Make sure they test the female hormones also along with the testosterone.  Maybe check cortisol levels too.  I'm off to do more research.
Avatar universal
I forgot to ask - did you ever use birth control pills or an IUD?  
Avatar universal
How are things going?  Any new news?
Avatar universal
Hi meniere!

I'm so sry for the long wait! It was so hectic wrapping up first semester and then flying home, then having break to catch up with everyone, and there were also some personal/ family issues and social issues that I had to deal with :(... But I'm officially back on campus right now.

Update, my hair *I think* has significantly stopped falling out (due to my supplementation of vitamin c, multivitamin, biotin, chelated zinc, omega 3s, and B12). But it's thinning like crazy, very fast---and is still really worrying me. As for my skin, it still looks really pale, washed out with lots of acne scars :(--I think it's also worsened to a certain extent. I went to the eye doctor the past week, and amazingly my prescription lowered!!! He was also amazed...so that's a good sign at least!

I've realized that my stool is unhealthy, kind of on the yellowish, greenish side, soft, and not so sweet smelling lol. I also tend to get a bit gassy sometimes.

I also went to the dermatologist and he gave me this diluting solution that I could put on my head, a steroids. I'm a bit nervous about using steroids though. Are they okay for you? I'm worried that on the long run it's not that great.

Nope, I haven't taken any birth control or IUD and I'm of asian descent.

Because of the holidays I wasn't able to go see a doctor to get the tests done. So I'm wondering if I should go see the health center on campus this week or not. A great thing about being on campus though, is that the dining hall lists very clearly what is gluten free :) That's awesome!

Talk to you soon and if you have any other things you'd like to share please tell me! Look forward to hearing from you!
Avatar universal
Oh yes, and Meniere,
Approximately how long do you think it would take to get "back on track" and normalize hormones, hair, and everything on a gluten free diet?
Avatar universal
Welcome back!!!!!!!!!  I missed you!  

First of all you say you think your hair has significantly stopped falling out, but then you say it's thinning like crazy!  Explain that please.

I can't explain why you are still pale.  What tests did the dermatologist run (if any) and what did the doctor have to say about the hairloss?  The topical steroid should be fine.  The body only absorbs a teeny weeny amount through the scalp.  Did he/she suggest Rogaine?

If you are truly 100% gluten free, sometimes the gluten free foods (especially quinoa) can cause gas.  If gluten was your only problem, the stools should be quite "healthy" looking by now.   Maybe other foods are causing problems also.  I know when I was pregnant with my second child, that's when I fell apart.  And foods I'd been eating all my life suddenly turned out to be what was causing my problems.  So I wonder if the hormone imbalance causes leaky gut or decreased enzymes to break down these foods (I know hormones protect the lining of the intestines under normal circumstances) and certain foods become the enemies.  I know the next food I needed to get rid of was milk products.  I feel my best on a gluten free, milk free, low carb diet.  I'm not suggesting this diet for you, especially since you have hairloss problems.  I think you should just work with the dermatologist for now and see how the hair thing goes.  Hopefully, your intestines will return to normal along with all your other symptoms.  Hair will take the longest to normalize because of the slow hair cycles coming and going.  You definitely should see improvement by one year..  But ask a dermatologist what he/she thinks.  I'll be talking to you soon.  Update me with any information you get from the doctors.
Just came across this thread.  I have been experiencing  similar symptoms  like sudden acne all over the face, hair loss  on the scalp and eyebrows, darkened skin tone on the face
All the blood tests  seem fine and the medicines prescribed  don't seem to show any effect
Please share if you found out the reason for the condition  and whether it has improved?
I am very anxious  to know the answers
Also I was under birth control  pills for 2 years before it happened to treat  my PCOS
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