Hair loss in Kidney Transplant Patients

Hair loss is among the top distressing symptoms

Nearly 30,000 kidney transplants are performed every year in North America. Patients receiving kidney transplants require lifelong immunosuppressive medications to help them avoid graft rejection and loss of the transplanted kidney.  The symptoms that patients experience after their transplant have the potential to affect quality of life. These include excess hair loss on the scalp, hair growth on the face (hirsutism), gingival hyperplasia, weight gain, cushingoid facies, hand tremors, and skin disorders. These are consistently among the most bothersome to patients and may have serious psychosocial implications.

Several studies have examined factors affecting quality of life in patients receiving kidney transplants. Hair loss In a recent study of 231 kidney transplant patients, high blood pressure, tiredness and hair loss were the three most distressing symptoms in both men and women. For women, hair loss was the most distressing symptoms.  A 2010 study in adolescents showed that hair loss was among the most distressing of the symptoms in adolescent kidney transplant patients.  


Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons in patients with organ transplants. This study, as well as others, indicate that patients experiencing side effects are most likely to be non adherent to various aspects of their immunosuppressive treatment recommendations. This can result in more serious complications, such as acute rejection, graft loss, rehospitalization, and even mortality. Strategies for minimizing side effects of immunosuppressive therapy and improving medication adherence are key to the long-term management of kidney transplant recipients. It is important to properly diagnose and treat hair loss in organ transplant patients to limit the effects on quality of life. 



Teng S, et al. Symptom Experience Associated With Immunosuppressive Medications in Chinese Kidney Transplant Recipients.  J Nurs Scholarsh. 2015.

Dobbels F, et al. Health-related quality of life, treatment adherence, symptom experience and depression in adolescent renal transplant patients. Pediatr Transplant. 2010.


Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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