People with CKD on Dialysis experience Severe Hair Loss and Brittle Nails

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People with Chronic Kidney Disease are at high risk of hair loss and changes to their nails for several reasons. A low protein diet means that a person may not meet their required daily needs of zinc, and zinc deficiency causes hair loss and brittle nails. Likewise, loss of appetite, particularly for meat and other protein foods, decreases zinc intake. A renal diet which restricts beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy products contributes to zinc deficiency since these are the main sources of zinc in the normal diet.

Other nutrients related to hair and nail changes that chronic kidney disease patients on dialysis may be deficient in include calcium, iron, and B vitamins. To treat and prevent these deficiencies, dialysis patients are prescribed a renal vitamin that contains high levels of B vitamins. Blood levels of calcium and iron are checked monthly and supplements are prescribed if levels are low.

Certain medicines can also cause hair and nail changes. recommends that you ask your Nephrologist and/or other members of your healthcare team to have tests done to determine if medicines you have been prescribed are related to your hair and nail symptoms. It is important for you to know if the medicine you are taking is causing those symptoms. strongly recommends that you do not stop taking your medicine until you discuss it with your healthcare team. Medicines could be added or changed if results show a link between the medication you are taking and changes to your hair or nails. There may be a medicine that can be substituted for the one you are prescribed. Also, sometimes thyroid problems can cause hair loss. Your doctor may order a lab test to detect any abnormal hormone levels, such as thyroid hormone.

Although, for the most part, hair loss is temporary for dialysis patients, and your hair will begin to grow back after a couple of months; in the meantime, here are some tips to help you deal with the temporary hair loss:

  • Avoid perms and coloring which can be harsh for your hair
  • Don’t use tight rubber bands
  • Consult with your hair stylist on ways to mask thinning hair
  • Discuss with your dietitian the appropriate amount of protein you should consume
  • Take your prescribed renal vitamin(s)

In sum, when your hair, fingernails and toenails begin to change, it may be connected to your chronic kidney disease. You and the people around you may notice changes such as hair loss, hair breakage, nail discoloration and brittle nails. Aside from normal aging, in kidney patients these changes can be due to malnutrition and side effects of medications. It is recommended that people with chronic kidney disease talk to their healthcare team about how to correct it.

Reference: "Hair, Nails and Chronic Kidney Disease." - DaVita.

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