Taking any new medication can make you wonder what the side effects of it are, especially if it is likely to affect your hair growth. Gabapentin is a medication you may have heard about, even if you don’t need to take it yourself.
So, does gabapentin cause hair loss? Yes, gabapentin can cause hair loss for many people. Fortunately, there are things you can do about drug-induced hair loss.
Knowing how gabapentin works and how it can cause hair fall is important so you can know how to get hair regrowth. Let’s take a look at gabapentin.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an oral medication that is time-released and found in either liquid, capsule, or tablet form. It is vital to take your doses at the same times every day, as even being a couple of hours late on a dose can make it less effective.
Its pharmacological properties allow it to decrease the activity in certain parts of your brain by releasing inhibitory neurotransmitters.
Though this might sound like a bad thing, some medical conditions involve abnormal activity in these areas. You will first be prescribed a small amount with a gradually increasing dose only if needed to prevent it from taking your brain activity too low.
Starting with a small dose is also meant to keep your chance of addiction low as well. Gabapentin is a generic medication and has been around since 2004. Common brand names of it are Horizant, Gralise, and Neurontin.
What Is Gabapentin Prescribed For?
Gabapentin is most commonly prescribed for epilepsy, convulsion, and seizure disorders. It is approved by the FDA and various medical associations for only these medical conditions.
Off-label use means it hasn’t been proven in studies to help with certain things, but your doctor still might give you this prescribed drug for your condition. Some off-label uses of gabapentin include:
restless leg syndrome
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Certain types of nerve damage can light up the part of your brain that gabapentin affects. Therefore, though other medications are sometimes preferred, gabapentin is also used for diabetic neuropathy.
It is also sometimes used for postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is nerve damage caused by shingles. Though gabapentin can’t repair damage to your nerves, it can help with pain and symptom management for many types of neuropathic pain.
The Side Effects Of Gabapentin
Gabapentin treatment can cause many different side effects. Most patients know if they will have any of these within one week, especially with the more severe side effects. Some common side effects of gabapentin are:
unwanted eye movements
swelling of the extremities
According to the National Library of Medicine, suicidal thoughts are also possible to have when on this anti-seizure medication. Occasional side effects of gabapentin include dry skin and eczema.
The FDA warns that seizure and nerve pain medicines gabapentin and pregabalin can cause serious breathing problems. If you are having difficulty breathing or start experiencing swelling in your face, tongue, or throat, you should tell your doctor immediately.
Because of the dizziness that this medication can cause, you are told not to drive until you know if this side effect of gabapentin is going to affect you.
A Warning About Gabapentin Use
There are other medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and more that can react to gabapentin. You should tell your primary doctor if you are using any of these.
Failure to do so can cause a drug overdose or other serious side effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists gabapentin as the seventh most commonly prescribed drug in the country.
In this article titled: “Trends in Gabapentin Detection and Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths,” the CDC goes over concerns that the increased therapeutic use of this medication has increased the risk of overdose.
How Does Gabapentin Cause Hair Loss?
Does gabapentin cause hair loss? Yes, but how and why? According to the National Library of Medicine, antiepileptic drugs of all types have the potential to cause drug-induced alopecia.
The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management detailed a patient’s experience with having a burning sensation on their scalp when taking gabapentin. A while after this burning sensation, the patient noticed significant hair loss in that same area.
Unfortunately, little is known about exactly how gabapentin causes hair loss, but it is thought to interfere with the natural cycle of your hair follicles.
Indirect Hair Loss
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, your hair can be affected by your weight. Rapid weight gain or loss, which gabapentin can cause, affects your energy, can affect your hormones, and negatively impacts your health. Any of those three things can cause hair loss.
Hypertension affects your circulatory system, which plays a vital role in your hair growth. Too much pressure in your body can damage your hair follicles, causing them to lose their hair strands.
Conversely, too little pressure in your body may also cause hair loss if your follicles don’t get enough blood going to them.
With the dizziness and other side effects, it is likely you won’t be moving around as much. This means you won’t be getting enough exercise, which is important for your overall health, especially for your heart.
What You Can Do About Hair Loss Caused By Gabapentin
As mentioned, gabapentin is sometimes prescribed along with other antiepileptic drugs. Therefore, you may need to verify it is the gabapentin causing your hair loss and not something else.
Keep in mind that, if you are having seizure disorders or neuropathic pain, you may not be able to stop taking gabapentin.
Some gabapentin users feel the adverse effects on their hair growth are worth it if it successfully helps treat epilepsy or nerve pain.
Talk To Your Healthcare Provider
You should always talk to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about gabapentin usage. Stopping gabapentin may be possible, though you will have to take other antiepileptic medications if you stop this one.
These other antiepileptic agents may cause drug-induced hair loss as a side effect themselves, though. But your doctor may know which medication is least likely to cause hair shedding.
Stopping gabapentin should stop your hair loss. Usually, any cosmetic side effects resolve themselves with time.
Some people found that, though their hair cycles were thrown off, their hair started growing again without them needing to stop their treatment. Either way, you should know that it may take around six months before you start seeing new hair growth.
If this is too slow for you, your doctor may approve the use of something like minoxidil if your gabapentin treatment is causing hair loss, whether or not you stop taking this medication.
Care For Your Hair Health
There are too many products to name that can help you regrow hair. Some of these don’t really work to help your hair grow or can have unwanted effects, while others give you amazing new growth.
The three products I consider the best are topical minoxidil, Folexin, and a hair loss shampoo called Revita by DS Labs. However, there are also natural alternatives that have been proven to reverse hair loss.
For gabapentin hair loss, a hair vitamin combined with either a topical treatment or shampoo is probably what you want to start with.
Additionally, you should check your styling products and stop using any that might be a problem for your hair due to being loaded with potentially harmful chemicals.
Healthy hair can sometimes handle those products without showing obvious signs of damage. However, if your scalp begins to struggle due to the gabapentin, it may not be able to handle what it usually can.
Care For Your Overall Health
Since gabapentin may cause you dizziness and take away your desire to exercise, it is even more vital you find some way of physically exerting energy.
Preferably, this will be something that won’t increase your risk of hurting yourself. Things like yoga, which can also help you de-stress, are a good idea.
The Epilepsy Foundation has helpfully listed different exercises and safety tips that you may already be following if you are taking gabapentin due to having seizures.
With this drug also potentially causing breathing problems, you should take care of your lungs as well. Your follicles do need oxygen, after all, and breathing problems can often increase your chances of catching pneumonia or some other respiratory disorder.
Therefore, making sure you stay healthy and that you take care of your immune system may also help your hair.
Though alopecia associated with gabapentin is not a common side effect, gabapentin and hair loss can be linked to one another. However, you shouldn’t give up on healthy hair growth.
If you are taking this medication, have you had to deal with gabapentin-induced hair loss? Did you have any other side effects?
I’d love to know if you found any way to solve your hair loss, if so, and I hope you’ll try some of my tips if you are currently suffering from hair loss because of this drug.