Checking Iron Levels in Women with Hair Loss
As many of my patients know, iron metabolism is one of my favourite subjects. It also forms one of the components of the hair loss research that I do.
I generally recommend that all women with concerns about hair loss have their iron levels checked using the simple blood tests called ferritin. Other blood tests may also be ordered for women with hair loss, such as thyroid tests and a complete blood test to measure the hemoglobin level.
Although it is somewhat contraversial among hair experts around the world, the iron level I like my patients to aim for is a ferritin level above 40-50 ug/L. If the blood test shows less than this, then I recommend supplementation with iron pills.
New research outlines additional benefits of checking iron levels in women
In a recently published study, Swiss researchers studied 198 premenopausal women who had ferritin levels less than 50 ug/L and symptoms of fatigue. A proportion of women in the study received ferrous sulphate pills and another proprotion of women received placebo pills.
What were the results of the study?
At the end of the 12 week study, women who received iron noted a significant improvement in their overall level of fatigue compared to women receiving the placebo pills. The ferritin level in women recieiving the iron pills increased by approximately 12 ug/L over the 12 weeks of the study.
Many premenopausal women have low iron levels. This study reminds us that there are many improtant benefits of iron, including helping improve the overall feeling of fatigue (if levels are low). Although I routinely follow iron levels in my patients, this study reminds us that asking about improvement in fatigue levels may also be an important parameter to assess in making a decision about continuing iron supplements for the longer term.
Vaucher P et al. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic
menstruating women with low ferritin: A randomized controlled trial. CMAJ
2012 Aug 7; 184:1247. (Click link for article)
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299