Hair loss on legs
When people think of hair loss, also known as alopecia, they likely think of losing strands of hair from their heads. While this type of hair loss might be the most noticeable, you can lose hair from virtually any part of your body, including your legs.
Leg hair loss is common with age in both men and women. However, if you notice large amounts of hair falling off your legs or if it happens suddenly, it may be time to see your doctor.
Causes of hair loss on legs
Hair loss occurs when individual hairs break away from the follicles and the follicles fail to produce new hairs.
As you age, your leg hair may become thinner and start to fall out. This is especially true if hair loss runs in your family.
Alopecia areata, a type of hair loss disorder, is also hereditary. With alopecia areata, your immune system attacks its own cells that contribute to hair growth. Alopecia areata more commonly affects the scalp in patches. Body-wide hair loss is called alopecia universalis. Anterolateral leg alopecia refers to hair loss on your legs that’s primarily located on the front and outer sides.
Leg hair loss may also be related to the following symptoms and conditions:
- poor circulation
- peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- diabetes, which is a risk factor for PAD
- chronic rashes from eczema, psoriasis, or other skin conditions
- thyroid conditions, especially hypothyroidism
- fungal infections
- hair follicle infections
- severe folliculitis
- hormone changes, such as those during pregnancy and menopause
- pituitary gland disorders
Other possible causes of hair loss on your legs include:
- nutrition deficiencies, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin D
- steroid use
- high levels of stress
- wearing tight pants or socks
- prescription medications, such as blood thinners
- a recent illness or major surgery
The causes of leg hair loss are numerous. If any underlying conditions are causing your loss of leg hair, it’s also likely that you’re losing hair on other parts of your body, too. Some exceptions are leg-specific conditions, such as PAD in your legs or friction from the clothing you wear.
Leg hair loss for men and women
Leg hair loss can occur in both men and women. However, anterolateral leg alopecia is thought to be more prevalent in men. One study estimates that about 35 percent of older men have this condition. Doctors aren’t sure of the exact causes of anterolateral leg alopecia and treatments vary. Like other types of alopecia, it’s thought to be hereditary.
The exact cause of leg hair loss should be diagnosed by your doctor. They’ll check your medical history and likely run blood tests to see if your hair loss might be caused by nutritional deficiencies, lack of thyroid hormone, or other conditions.
Since most causes of leg hair loss aren’t isolated to your legs, your doctor will also look for signs of hair loss on other parts of your body. They may even look for signs of rashes, infections, and possible symptoms of skin conditions that might contribute to hair loss on your legs.
Depending on the suspected cause, your doctor may also refer you to a dermatologist that specializes in skin and hair disorders.
If your doctor suspects PAD, they could also test for certain risk factors, such as:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
The treatment for leg hair loss depends on the underlying cause. It can take several weeks for hair to grow back.
Some of the possible treatments for hair loss on your legs include:
- supplements or dietary adjustments for nutritional deficiencies
- corticosteroid injections to stop inflammation
- prescription finasteride (Propecia) for alopecia areata
- hormone replacement treatments, such as levothyroxine (Synthroid) for hypothyroidism
You should only use over-the-counter hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil (Rogaine), if your doctor recommends it. These may not work for your leg area and they might worsen any underlying symptoms.
When to see your doctor
While leg hair loss might be caused by chronic conditions, some of the underlying causes may require prompt medical attention. See your doctor right away if sudden leg hair loss is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- severe inflammation
- open wounds
- skin that’s cool to the touch
- muscle loss
Hair loss is a complex condition. Minor cases of hair loss on your legs could be temporarily based on stress, life changes, and other acute conditions. However, if your leg hair loss is widespread and long-lasting, it may be time to see your doctor.