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Amitiza and Hair Loss

Oct 20, 2021
Amitiza and Hair Loss

Hair loss is an extremely distressing side effect of many medications. If you’ve been using Amitiza, this article will answer some of the questions you might have about the drug.

We’ll discuss how it works, what it’s used for, its side effects, and whether it can lead to hair loss. In the end, we’ll also share some other common reasons for hair loss.

Let’s get started!

What is Amitiza?

Amitiza is the brand name for a drug called lubiprostone. Lubiprostone is an anti-constipation drug. It works by activating chloride channels on the cells lining your gut. Activation of these channels leads to increased production of chloride-rich fluid by gut cells.

As the fluid content of the gut increases, the stool becomes soft. And this makes it easier for it to pass through the gastrointestinal tract, thus treating constipation.

The increased fluid in the gut also puts pressure on its walls, which leads to reflex contraction of the gut smooth muscle. This can trigger a bowel movement and is another way Amitiza treats constipation.

Importantly, Amitiza is not a laxative. This means it’s not meant to provide immediate relief from constipation and works when taken regularly at the appropriate dose.

What conditions does Amitiza treat?

Amitiza mainly treats irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC).

Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional gut disorder. Patients with IBS experience long-term, recurrent bouts of abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation. The constipation sub-type of IBS can be treated using Amitiza.

CIC is another cause of long-term constipation but unlike IBS, we’re not really sure what causes it. This is why it’s called idiopathic, which means of an unknown origin.

Amitiza has also been approved for the treatment of opioid-induced constipation. Opioids are a class of drugs that are mainly used for severe, long-term pain. And one side effect of opioids is constipation, which unlike other side effects stays constant and doesn’t improve with time.

Non-cancer patients who’re experiencing long-term constipation due to opioid treatment can be treated with Amitiza.

It’s important to note that doctors often use drugs like Amitiza as a last-resort treatment for constipation. You should never try Amitiza for everyday, temporary constipation, which can be treated using simple lifestyle changes such as improved dietary fiber and regular exercise. 

Even if you have IBS or CIC, your doctor will first try to treat your constipation with lifestyle modifications or other drugs. In case other therapies fail, you’ll be switched to Amitiza.

Does Amitiza cause hair loss?

While hair loss is not a recognized side effect of Amitiza, some patients have reported it. Since there are no clinical studies supporting (or rejecting) this side effect, it’s difficult to say whether it really exists.

It’s also difficult to predict the type of people who experience hair loss in response to Amitiza and the severity of this side effect.

You should know that a wide range of drugs can cause hair loss. And if you’re using another drug (in addition to Amitiza), it might be the culprit behind your hair loss.

Examples of drugs that can lead to hair loss include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Immunosuppressants like methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, and leflunomide
  • Beta blockers, which treat high blood pressure and angina
  • ACE inhibitors, which also treat high blood pressure
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-cancer drugs

Any of these drugs can be responsible for your hair loss if you’re taking it with Amitiza. But this is not to say that Amitiza can’t cause hair loss on its own. Since patients have reported hair loss after taking Amitiza, the possibility remains.

In most cases, your hair loss will stop after you stop taking the responsible drug. You can try talking with your physician and see if he can prescribe you an alternative drug that doesn’t cause hair loss.

If you’re losing hair due to cancer treatment, you should know that there’s nothing wrong with adopting your new look and being proud of how you’re fighting the disease!

What are the side effects of Amitiza?

While hair loss is not well-documented with Amitiza, other side effects have been well- established. These include:

  • Nausea — most common
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Gas
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

 

Amitiza has the potential to lower blood pressure. Taking Amitiza on top of an antihypertensive can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure, which can cause dizziness or fainting. This effect can be worsened by the diarrhea that Amitiza sometimes causes.

If you experience dizziness or fainting after taking Amitiza, contact your doctor immediately.

Amitiza can also rarely lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction in some patients. Signs that can help you recognize this reaction include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the skin, especially around the mouth
  • Itching
  • Chest pain

If you experience any of these signs after taking the drug, go to a doctor immediately.

What are other causes of hair loss?

It may be possible that your hair loss is from an entirely different cause, so it’s important to be aware of some common reasons behind hair loss.

One common cause of hair loss is hereditary. If you have a family history of baldness, your hair loss is very likely to be genetic.

But there are temporary causes of hair loss too, and your hair usually starts growing back as time passes. Examples of these causes include:

  • Surgery
  • Major illness

Sometimes, an underlying medical disorder can lead to hair loss and treatment of the condition may reverse it. Examples include thyroid disorders, fungal scalp infection, autoimmune conditions that destroy hair follicles, and trichotillomania, which is a psychological condition where people develop an obsessive need to pull their hair.

The best course of action in all these conditions is to see a doctor and get treatment for the underlying condition.

Takeaway

Amitiza is used to treat constipation that doesn’t respond to other treatments. And while patients have reported hair loss as a side effect of the drug, there are no studies supporting the claim. If you feel your hair loss is due to Amitiza, talk to your doctor. But be aware that there are a wide range of conditions that can lead to hair loss, and those should be excluded first.

Medically Reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD 


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