Thyroid Top Cause of Eyebrow Loss

Photo by Michael Sandoval

Photo by Michael Sandoval via Flicker

I am an active 63-year-old female of normal weight. I exercise several times a week and am in seemingly good health. About a year ago I noticed that my eyebrows were disappearing, starting on the outer edges. They are now almost completely gone.

During my annual physical in November, my general physician found that I have thyroid nodules. Three large ones were biopsied and proved negative. Blood work, including a TSH level, is normal. Both my GP and dermatologist feel certain that the nodules are not causing the eyebrow problem, because I don’t have any other symptoms of thyroid disease, but they don’t know what is causing the loss.

Dr. Roach says: The loss of eyebrows, superciliary madarosis, has many possible causes, but low thyroid is the first one that most doctors think of. A TSH level is a reasonable screening test for thyroid disease, but if the suspicion is high, I check additional thyroid tests, such a thyroxine (T4), free T4 and T3. Occasionally TSH still can be in the very broad “normal” range for most people but be abnormal for that person.

Other causes of eyebrow loss include autoimmune disease, inflammatory skin conditions and infection. Repeated plucking of the eyebrows can lead to permanent loss of the follicles. Allergies to cosmetics also can cause eyebrow and eyelash loss. Have you changed your makeup recently?

My wife continually tells me that I should not drink reheated coffee because it concentrates the acid in coffee and is bad for me. I never drink more than one cup per day, and I always use a non-dairy creamer and Splenda. I have researched this question online and several responses say it is not harmful. In the meantime, she drinks orange juice every day, which has a lower pH than coffee. She sometimes complains about acid indigestion. Your comments?

 Dr. Roach says: Acid is measured by the pH scale — with the lower the number, the more acid in the liquid. Coffee has a pH of about 5, slightly acidic, whereas orange juice has a pH of 3, which means it is a hundred times more acidic. Reheating coffee should not change the acid concentration.

Your stomach has a pH of about 1.5 — much more acid than either juice or coffee. The caffeine in coffee can stimulate your stomach to make more acid, and can weaken the sphincter muscle that keeps the stomach acid from going up into the esophagus. However, if it isn’t bothering you, there is no reason to stop drinking coffee.

One cup of juice usually doesn’t cause acid indigestion either.

What is a hammer toe? Is surgery always necessary?

Dr. Roach says: A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toe, where it stays permanently bent. It may be caused by wearing shoes with too little toe room. Roomy shoes are always a good idea, and taping may be tried if the toe is still bendable.

Surgery is used in cases of pain that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments. Surgery should not be done just for cosmetic reasons.

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