Prolactin is a secreted hormone in the anterior pituitary gland. Its main role is to stimulate the development of milk after infancy in women. Recent studies, however, have also shown a link between high levels of Prolactin and our hair’s health-or lack of it. Higher Serum Prolactin levels have been found to be associated with severe hair loss in the human body.
Hyperprolactinemia, i.e. elevated levels of prolactin, is a natural shift during pregnancy and breastfeeding but can be a symptom of disease in non-pregnant women. This disorder leads to progressive hair loss due to its effect on the testosterone levels in the body.
Prolactin works by growing Luteinizing Hormone receptors in Leydig Cells, testosterone generating cells located in men’s testicles, and women’s ovaries. The increased secretion of testosterone may cause hair loss in some individuals because their hair follicles are genetically more susceptible to the elevated hormone levels, which causes the follicle to shrink away.
Hair Loss study, due to high levels of prolactin
In a recent study, an exceptionally high dose (400ng\ml) of prolactin was treated with an organ-cultured human scalp. Natural Prolactin levels in men are below 18ng\ml and in women 29. The effect was a major reduction in hair shaft elongation along with more hair going prematurely into the catagen process when the hair gets cut off from its blood supply and stops growing. There was also elevated apoptosis, which is increased natural cell death of hair bulb keratinocytes (protective function cells in the skin), which can result in hair loss.
Reasons for increased Secretion of Prolactin
May cause hyperprolactinemia by the following:
- Prolactinoma, a non-cancerous swelling of the pituitary gland which results in increased prolactin secretions.
- Increased TRH (Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone) secretion due to hypothyroidism, stimulates prolactin secretion.
- Excessive use of antidepressant medications, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors ( SSRIs), Benzodiazepines, and Tricyclic Antidepressants.
- What condition of psychotic illness or persistent anxiety.
- Increased secretion of the hormone Oxytocin is present during pregnancy and lactation which in turn causes increased secretion of Prolactin.
Increased levels of estrogen often induce elevated levels of prolactin at the end of the gestational period. Paradoxically, Estrogen is often said to extend the hair cycle’s rising period (anagenic period), which is why women’s hair during pregnancy can get thicker. Information on Estrogen can be found in this article and how it affects the hair.
Reasons for low Prolactin Levels
- Prolonged sunlight exposure will decrease Prolactin levels in the body.
- Increased hypothalamic production of dopamine also prevents the secretion of Prolactin.
- Pharmacological Management of elevated levels of prolactin
One recent research has shown that the use of Dopamine Receptor Agonists such as Bromocriptine, Cabergoline, Pergolide, and Quinagolide greatly decreases body levels of Prolactin due to increased dopamine secretion.
These dopamine agonists all have the same action mechanism and minimal side effects. Studies have also shown that for children and adolescents, Cabergoline has the highest effectiveness and tolerability of medications. Cabergoline should therefore be the drug of choice for treating hyperprolactinemia, especially in young children and adolescents.
High levels of Prolactin are increasing in many people as a possible cause of increased hair loss. Therefore, in case of severe hair loss or Alopecia, levels of Prolactin should be tested to handle these problems accordingly.