Hair Loss on Legs: Causes, Treatments, and Warnings

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan, MBBS Dermatologist
by Arshiya Syeda

Experiencing hair loss on your legs can be quite worrying, especially if you have perfectly normal hair growth on other parts of the body.

Of course, losing hair on your legs is not uncommon, but it may be a sign of a bigger health problem, such as diabetes or a thyroid disorder. You are especially at risk of developing such conditions if you have a family history of the same.

If you have been losing leg hair and are concerned about your health, read on to know more about this condition.

Understanding Hair Loss on Legs

Under ordinary circumstances, hair fall is quite natural. New strands replace the old ones when they break off from the roots. However, when the follicles can no longer support growth, hair starts falling out, usually in chunks.

Certain hereditary disorders, such as alopecia areata, can cause hair loss on the scalp. In this condition, the immune system of the person starts attacking the cells that support hair growth. Another form of this disorder, called alopecia universalis, is body-wide hair loss.

Loss of hair on the legs typically occurs due to anterolateral leg alopecia. This condition affects the hair on the outer and front sides of the legs. Besides, aging may be a contributing factor since it can cause thinning of leg hair.

Have a look at other leading causes that may trigger loss of body hair.

What Are The Leading Causes of Leg Hair Loss?

Hair loss is not generally isolated. Chances are you may be losing them from other body parts, as well. This is only if the underlying reasons are peripheral artery disease (PAD) in the legs or friction from clothing.

Let us understand the potential causes in detail:

1. Hypothyroidism And Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland largely determines the health of your hair follicles. Both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can affect hair growth (1).

You may experience premature hair fall when the thyroid interrupts your normal hair growth cycle. Usually, the strands start shedding from the scalp. But, other body parts – such as legs and hands – may also be affected.

Besides, certain anti thyroid medications – such as propylthiouracil and carbimazole – can trigger hair loss on your legs (2).

You should check for hypothyroidism symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems

On the other hand, some hyperthyroidism symptoms are:

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping

2. Friction Due To Clothing

The type of clothing or socks you wear can also cause your leg hair to fall out (3). However, it may not be the sole reason.

3. Role Of Diabetes In Hair Loss

Losing body hair has been linked with diabetes, particularly type-2 diabetes (4), (5). Over time, the patient may develop peripheral artery disease (PAD).

In this condition, the blood vessels of the legs suffer significant damage when plaque, a fatty deposit, accumulates inside them (6). Consequently, due to interrupted blood flow, your hair may fall out.

4. Genetic Hair Disorders

Some genetic hair disorders – such as hypotrichosis – can be responsible for hair loss on the legs. People with this disorder have fragile and sparse body hair since birth. They may completely lose their hair over time.

5. Adrenal And Pituitary Glands Disorder

The function of the adrenal gland is to produce hormones like aldosterone and cortisol. When a person has Addison’s disease, their adrenal gland does not function properly.

As a result, the hormonal imbalance may cause the loss of body hair in women (7). Stomach ailments, skin color changes, and fatigue are other symptoms of this adrenal gland disorder.

If you suspect that you have Addison’s disease, it is best to consult a doctor. This condition could be life-threatening if you do not receive timely treatment.

Apart from that, other hormonal changes caused by menopause, pregnancy, pituitary gland disorders, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may cause hair loss on the legs (8).

6. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Patchy hair loss may occur in the later stages of sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as syphilis (9). It is usually accompanied by a rash, sore throat, and fever.

7. Iron Deficiency

When you consult a doctor about hair loss, chances are they will recommend blood tests to determine your iron levels. If you have an iron deficiency, it can cause anemia and trigger hair loss (10).

Therefore, you should include dark leafy greens, beans, red meat, and other iron-rich food in your diet to prevent loss of body hair.

Apart from iron, your body needs vitamin D and protein for hair growth.

8. Excess Vitamin A And Selenium

Every person should get the right dose of vitamins and minerals. If you take supplements, you should not overdo it. Research indicates that excess amount of vitamin A and selenium in the body can cause your leg hair to fall out (11).

9. Stress

If you are constantly stressed, you may lose hair on your legs (12). Although there is limited research to prove this, alopecia areata may also be triggered due to severe stress.

Some strands may break away a few months after you were exposed to stressful circumstances. This is known as telogen effluvium.

Apart from that, a mental health disorder that goes by the name of trichotillomania may cause the patient to pull out their own hair because of stress.

10. Drug-Induced Alopecia

Unfortunately, losing leg hair can be a side effect of medication. Also known as drug-induced alopecia, this condition usually affects the scalp. However, it can lead to loss of body hair on legs and arms, as well.

In a study conducted in 2014, an antifungal medication called Voriconazole was reported to be the cause of hair loss on arms and legs by 42% of the participants (13). When the participants in the study discontinued the medication, their hair grew back.

Other medications may trigger hair loss, such as:

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Beta-blockers
  • Thyroid medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Amphetamines
  • ACE inhibitors, such as Lisinopril and Perindopril

11. Severe Folliculitis

If your hair follicles are infected by bacteria, it may cause weeping, pain, and inflammation if left untreated. The medical term for this is folliculitis. This fungal infection can lead to hair loss from the legs, arms, chest, face, and pubic region. It is characterized by scars, pustules, swelling, and redness on the skin surrounding the follicles.

You may be wondering how common body hair loss is among men and women. Let us find out!

Prevalence Of Hair Loss On Legs In Men And Women

Even though hair loss on the legs affects both men and women, the prevalence of anterolateral leg alopecia is higher in men.

According to a study, anterolateral leg alopecia affects 35% of all older men (14).

The precise cause of this condition is not known. However, hereditary factors are known for being the common cause, like other forms of alopecia.

Now that we have covered the causes, it is time to move on to the diagnosis of leg hair loss.

Diagnosing Hair Loss On Legs

If you are noticing severe hair loss on your legs, a proper medical diagnosis is crucial. Besides running blood tests, the doctor will look at your medical history and check for conditions that may be triggering the hair fall.

Since hair loss is not isolated in most cases, the doctor will check if you have been losing hair from other body parts.

If the cause is a skin condition, such as psoriasis, you will be referred to a dermatologist. On the other hand, if you are diagnosed with PAD, your treatment will be directed towards controlling:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Once the underlying cause of loss of body hair on the legs and arms is detected, your treatment will begin.

Treating Hair Loss On Legs: What To Expect

Your hair can grow back if the treatment is effective. If your hair loss results from a medication side-effect, the doctor will either change it or lower the dosage.

If the doctor does not find any other symptoms, no treatment may be required if the hair loss on the legs does not bother you.

Besides, the cause may not always be chronic. Loss of body hair may also be triggered by acute conditions, life changes, and stress. However, if it is accompanied by muscle loss, you should see your doctor.

Avoid taking over-the-counter medication for hair loss without a doctor’s advice. Some of them may worsen your underlying symptoms.

Conclusion

A multitude of causes may trigger hair loss on the legs, including nutrient deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, an STI, drug interaction, and stress. But luckily, the right diagnosis and early treatment can slowly revive hair growth on your legs.

To prevent any further damage to your hair follicles, avoid making any changes to your diet or medication without consulting a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Lisinopril cause hair loss on your legs?

Yes, ACE inhibitors such as Lisinopril may cause drug-induced alopecia on the legs.

What is your body lacking when you lose hair?

Hair loss on the legs can be triggered by an iron, protein, or vitamin D deficiency.

Does poor circulation cause hair loss on the legs?

Yes, when your hair follicles do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, they may start to shed.

14 sources

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
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