Metformin and Hair Loss – Are They Related?

Is Hair Loss a Side Effect of Metformin?

Although Metformin has a few potential side effects, some of which are quite considerable, it is very unlikely that hair loss would be one of them. According to lab tests conducted prior to metformin’s approval as a drug by FDA, hair loss was not found to be a common side effect of metformin.

Hair loss is likely probable to occur in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) who are taking Metformin, though it is not caused by taking Metformin but by the disorder itself.

In the case of diabetes, a lot of diabetic patients report minimal to moderate to sometimes severe hair loss, and a lot of them are on metformin. Although that still doesn’t mean that metformin is the direct cause, it can very well be an indirect cause.

When a drug is just being developed, multiple lab experiments are often held to examine its potential adverse effects. However, often it is after it is approved and more and more people take the drug long-term, that it is possible to discover more side effects. 

Thus, it’s not always possible to confidently assert that a specific effect is not caused by a medicine, even though the side effect was not found during the tests.

If you notice a change in your hair growth while on metformin, do consult your doctor. Your medical practitioner will have a few options to offer you depending on how grave your hair loss is. If the symptoms keep bothering you and your doctor confirms that Metformin is at the root, he or she might prescribe you with another medication for your treatment.

Why metformin can cause hair loss

Metformin is known to hinder mineral and nutrient absorption in the human body. It often leads to depletion of various important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which by itself can cause a whole range of unpleasant symptoms and conditions. Hair loss may very well be one of them.

Two nutrients, in particular, are very beneficial for maintaining good hair health.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been proven to positively affect the growth of hair follicles and support the health of your hair throughout its life. You can be deficient in Vitamin D if you live in a northern climate and do not have a regular sun exposure. In this case, you can supplement vitamin D for better health of your hair.


According to one study, low levels of iron may inhibit an enzyme that is vitally important for hair health. You may have low iron and not be aware of it whether you are on metformin or not. Women are particularly at risk of low iron or even anaemia.

If you are frequently cold, tired, weak, have pale skin and tremor in your limbs, cold hands, and feet, you might be low on iron.  Iron is vitally important for many different functions of your body, not just your hair health. Consult with your doctor.

They might advise you to do some tests to see your iron levels and prescribe you a supplement. If you are on metformin, it is especially important to supplement iron (and other minerals and vitamins) because of the ability of metformin to block proper mineral absorption, even if you get enough iron with your food.

Other vitamins and nutrients that are important for optimal hair health are:

Biotin (Vitamin H)  – a vitamin that helps strengthen the protein structure in the hair
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Flax Seed Oil
Folic Acid

Some of these you can easily add to your system by supplementing without many risks. (Such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Flax Seed and Folic Acid.) With some others, a bit more caution is required. Do not start supplementing Selenium or Zinc without first consulting a professional.

Another possibility is that you are experiencing a so-called psychological hair loss. This is because you might have been stressed out of the past while, dealing with your disease and medications, and adjusting to the new lifestyle. Try not to panic if you notice signs of hair loss.

For one, if it is psychological and stress-related, you won’t lose much hair. The conditions will very likely stabilise in a few weeks. Also, the more you stress, the worse it will be. If you learn to relax and keep stress at bay, you might notice your hair state improve.

Of course, it’s understandable that hair loss can cause a lot of stress by itself, both for male and female patients. If you have been watching your hair for a while and haven’t noticed any improvement, it might be time to consult with your doctor. You don’t want your difficulties with your hair lead to anxiety and lost self-confidence, or worse, depression.

Treatments are available to help deal with hair loss. Whether your original diagnosis was diabetes or PCOS, see your doctor and ask what alternative is best for you in terms of supporting your hair health.


Metformin For The Treatment of PCOS

PCOS overview

PCOS, or Polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition that arises in between 5% and 10% of women of childbearing age as a result of an imbalance in reproductive hormones. Women in PCOS have highly elevated levels of male reproductive hormones (androgens).  Polycystic ovaries develop as a result of being stimulated by too many androgens, especially testosterone.  The cause of PCOS is unknown, although it is believed it has a hereditary component. There seem to be two main driving forces behind the development of PCOS – high level of male hormones (androgens) and high level of insulin.

PCOS Symptoms

The symptoms of PCOS include irregularities in the menstrual cycle (no periods, or very heavy periods), excess facial hair, excess body hair, areas of darkened skin, pelvic pain, difficulty getting pregnant or infertility. Some other conditions are also associated with PCOS. For example, half of the women with PCOS is estimated to get diabetes or pre-diabetes by age forty. PCOS – affected women sometimes also tend to have high blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol, sleep apnea, endometrial cancer and some other conditions.

PCOS, Metformin, and Diabetes 

PCOS and diabetes are often connected because, as stated above, around 50% of women with PCOS will also have diabetes at a certain point in their lives. Apart from this connection, women with PCOS are often treated with metformin, the same drug that is used to treat type 2 diabetes, to manage their PCOS and increase their fertility. Studies have found that one of the reasons behind PCOS is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to the compensatorily increased production of insulin by the pancreas, which, in its turn, leads to the increase in the levels of male hormones (androgens) in the body. The increase of androgens is the main cause of PCOS. This is the link that connects Insulin Resistance and PCOS, and this is why metformin is often used to help treat PCOS.

Studies that looked at patients with PCOS taking metformin have observed significant improvement in menstrual cycle regularity and reduction in androgen levels as well as a significant reduction in body weight of the subjects. In real life treatment, metformin, particularly Glucophage, has been proven to be very effective in treating PCOS and increasing female fertility, by the mechanisms of reducing insulin resistance, helping control blood sugar levels in the body and decreasing the amount of androgens in the system. This in its turn helps reduce the number of cysts and prevent the development of new ones. Metformin has also been proved to help induce ovulation in women with PCOS struggling with fertility.

If you are suffering from PCOS, your doctor may also prescribe other medications such as fertility treatment drugs such as Clomid. Since there is an association between PCOS and insulin resistance, lifestyle modifications should include exercise and monitoring caloric consumption to maintain proper blood sugar levels.

Miscarriage risks and metformin

Women suffering from PCOS have been shown to have a much higher risk of miscarriage than women that don’t (three times as high for women with PCOS as opposed to healthy women). In many cases, this can be connected to the prevalence of obesity in PCOS women. However, that has not been sufficiently researched. Metformin has been shown to have a positive impact on reducing risks of miscarriage for women with PCOS.

Gestational diabetes and metformin

Women that have PCOS also have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. The reverse is also true: women with a history of gestational diabetes have as much as 40% chance to develop PCOS at some point in their lives.  Gestational diabetes is not only bad for the mother. It can also negatively affect the fetus and cause abnormalities, developmental issues, and even death. Medicating with metformin throughout pregnancy has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of PCOS women developing gestational diabetes, thus greatly improving their chances to carry the pregnancy to term and have a healthy child.

Other health issues you may need to know about if you are diagnosed with PCOS

*More than half of women suffering from PCOS will get diabetes.

*A woman affected by PCOS will have 4-7 times greater chance of experiencing a heart attack compared to one of the same age who doesn’t have PCOS.

*A woman who is suffering from PCOS is at higher risk for high blood pressure.

Metformin has been shown to be very effective in a whole range of conditions related to insulin resistance and Polycystic ovary syndrome. However, the long-term use of metformin to treat PCOS has not been studied extensively. Follow your doctor’s advice about how long you should use metformin and in what dosage. Although metformin has shown some great results, it is still not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and well-balanced diet. If you are suffering from PCOS or having troubles with fertility, please consult your doctor to develop a program you can follow to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercising and healthy diet should be an important part of any medical treatment.

If you are suffering from diabetes-related neuropathy, please check out this Guide by Dr. Randall C. Labrum, Clinician, Researcher and Author. It has helped a lot of people end chronic peripheral neuropathy and regain health and well-being.

“I get so excited every time I have the opportunity to help someone with a chronic unresolved health problem. The ability to provide my expertise and experience in resolving these conditions creates a feeling of satisfaction like nothing else.”
Dr. Randall C. Labrum, Clinician, Researcher and Author