The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. It can affect any part of the body, including the legs. Causes include medications and medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Hair loss on the legs is known as anterolateral leg alopecia. This is because it is visible on the front (anterior) and sides (lateral) of the lower legs. Another name for it is peroneal alopecia.
Many people with alopecia on the legs may not realize they have it. As long as there are no other symptoms present, it should not be a cause for concern.
However, some people may notice other symptoms in addition to hair loss. This can sometimes indicate an underlying health condition that requires medical attention.
Read on to learn about the different causes of hair loss on the legs, as well as how to treat it.
Certain factors, including some health conditions, can cause hair loss on the legs. The sections below discuss these in more detail.
Hair loss that occurs as a side effect of medication is known as drug-induced alopecia. This usually affects the scalp but can also affect other parts of the body, including the legs.
Other drugs that might cause hair loss include:
- ACE inhibitors
- birth control
- blood thinners
- cholesterol-lowering medications
- epilepsy medications
- gout medications
- hormone therapy
- thyroid medications
- ulcer medications
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles. It most often develops on the scalp, but it can cause hair loss anywhere, including on the legs.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the condition affects nearly 6.7 million people in the United States in their lifetimes. Roughly 700,000 people in the United States currently have it.
Scientists have not yet identified the exact cause of alopecia areata. Multiple genetic and environmental factors likely play a role.
Coronary heart disease
Limited research suggests there may be a link between coronary heart disease (CHD) and alopecia on the legs. One 2018 study found that hair loss on the legs was more common in men with CHD than in those without.
Men with CHD also started losing leg hair at an earlier age than those without CHD.
Other potential symptoms of CHD include:
- chest pain, or angina
- shortness of breath
Diabetes can also cause hair loss on the legs.
Over time, diabetes-related damage to the blood vessels can result in peripheral artery disease (PAD). In PAD, a fatty deposit called plaque builds up in the blood vessels inside the legs. This interferes with blood flow and, consequently, hair growth.
Other potential symptoms of diabetes include:
- frequent urination
- excessive thirst
- extreme fatigue
- slower wound healing
- tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet
The thyroid gland plays an important role in the growth and maintenance of hair follicles. Having an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can affect the hair growth cycle. This can result in hair shedding too early.
Hairs commonly shed from the scalp, but they may also shed from other areas of the body, including the legs.
Some antithyroid medications, such as carbimazole and propylthiouracil, can also cause hair loss in rare cases.
- dry skin
- memory issues
Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- difficulty sleeping
- racing heart
- increased sweating
Other potential causes
Some additional causes of hair loss on the legs include:
Anterolateral leg alopecia appears to be more common in men than in women.
A 2019 study of 903 men in Poland found that hair loss on the legs affected roughly 40% of those between the ages of 36–52 years. Most of the men had not noticed the hair loss.
Anyone concerned about hair loss on their legs can consult a doctor or dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin, hair, and nail concerns.
To diagnose the cause, a doctor or dermatologist will:
- take a complete medical history, including how quickly the hair loss began and how long it has continued
- examine the individual’s skin, paying special attention to the legs and any other areas with hair loss
- study the individual’s hair to look for signs of breakage and other damage
- order blood tests if necessary
When it comes to treating hair loss on the legs, the first step is to identify the cause.
If the hair loss is due to a medical condition, the doctor will prescribe the relevant treatment. If the hair loss occurs as a side effect of a particular drug, the doctor may lower the dosage or change the medication.
Sometimes, hair loss on the legs occurs without any other symptoms. If the person is not concerned by the hair loss, treatment may not be necessary.
Standard hair loss treatments do not seem to be effective for treating hair loss on the legs.
Many people may experience hair loss on the legs without realizing it. Unless there are other symptoms, it is unlikely to be a cause for concern.
However, hair loss that occurs with other symptoms can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires treatment. Some conditions that can cause hair loss include heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid issues.
A person can contact a doctor if they are concerned about hair loss on their legs. The doctor will work to diagnose and treat the issue.