You have been experiencing hair loss and had nothing more than a few basic speculations as to what could be causing it until a friend recommended that you should have your prolactin levels checked.
This recommendation left you with more than a few questions.
Isn’t prolactin a hormone in women? Isn’t it the one behind the production of breast milk after childbirth? Do men have prolactin flowing in their veins and could it really be behind your hair loss?
Read on as we explain how prolactin levels and hair growth are related, even in men.
What is Prolactin?
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which sits at the bottom end of the brain.
Yes, this is the hormone responsible for the production of breastmilk in women soon after childbirth. This is why it is so often associated with women and assumed to be one exclusive to females.
That is not entirely true. Men also have prolactin although it is present in much lower levels compared to women.
How High Prolactin Levels Cause Hair Loss
Role of prolactin in men
In men, prolactin plays a very different role. It is the hormone responsible for enhancing the production of testosterone which is a male sex hormone produced in the testicles. Testosterone is essential for normal male sexual function and is what causes the development of male features during puberty such as deeper voice, facial hair, and muscle strength.
Effects of high prolactin in men
Some men develop hyperprolactinemia. This is a condition in which prolactin levels in the body are higher than normal. Elevated prolactin levels cause a drop in the production of testosterone which brings with it effects of its own. One of them is hair loss.
We mentioned that testosterone is responsible for the development of male features including body hair. Therefore low levels of this hormone could be behind loss of hair on the arms and legs, chest, face, and even pubic hair.
Experts however add that it is unlikely to affect scalp hair.
Common Misconception about Testosterone and Hair Loss
It must be mentioned that there is a common belief that hair loss in men, particularly male pattern baldness, is caused by high testosterone levels in the man’s body. If this were the case, then it would follow that anything causing reduced production of testosterone (such as high prolactin), would minimize hair loss.
This would then poke holes in the idea that hyperprolactinemia could cause hair loss.
It is a common myth
That testosterone causes hair loss in men is actually one of the most common myths about hair loss. Age-related thinning and balding are not actually caused by testosterone in itself, but rather by DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) which is a by-product of testosterone. DHT is formed from testosterone by an enzyme called 5a-reductase.
When a man’s 5a-reductase levels are high or it is particularly prolific, then even normal testosterone levels could cause male pattern baldness. If it is not, then even exceptionally high levels of testosterone don’t cause age-related balding.
So could high prolactin levels be the main reason behind your hair loss?
Our final thought is that it could very well be the reason for reduced body hair such as chest hair and hair on your arms and legs as these are heavily influenced by testosterone. Even facial hair could suddenly thin for the same reasons.
However, as long as you are talking about the loss of hair on your head, it is quite unlikely that high prolactin levels could be the main reason behind it as low testosterone has no direct effect on scalp hair thinning or balding.