Q. I am a 39-year-old nurse who is experiencing drastic hair loss. I started taking atenolol for high blood pressure about four months ago. One month after starting the med I started slowly losing my hair.
I am sometimes afraid to brush my hair for fear that it will ALL come out. It comes out so easily. I worry about it every day, though I’m sure that the constant worry also contributes to even more hair loss.
I have asked the doctors that I work with, and their only advice is to start exercising and try to get off the atenolol altogether. I am going to take that advice because my biggest fear is losing my hair.

A. No wonder you worry. Losing a lot of hair is not a pleasant experience.
As you have concluded, atenolol is probably the culprit. What’s more, there is considerable controversy about the effectiveness of atenolol for treating hypertension ( The Lancet, Nov. 6, 2004).
A surprising number of medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. We have listed many in the Guide to Hair and Nail Care we are sending you. We are also including our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment, with a number of scientifically supported non-drug approaches.
If diet, exercise and other natural approaches are not adequate for blood pressure control, there are other medicines for hypertension that may be less likely to cause hair loss.

Join Over 54,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Beryl R
    Suffolk
    Reply

    I’ve been prescribed Atenolol for 13 years. My hair started to thin about 3 years ago and now i have bald patches.
    I was diagnosed as type 2 diabetic 1 year ago and was put on Metformin but i also take Pravastatin. I told my GP that Atenolol and Pravastatin are likely culprits of hair loss.
    Now I have to have a full blood count done plus a thyroid test and if they are negative he is going to send me to a dermatologist. I do not think that is the answer: it’s the meds. I also have blepharitis and dry eyes and after a few years attending Moorfields eye hospital I exhausted the consultants medical cabinet so nothing they could do. I was told to wear dark glasses. It just has to be the meds; why don’t doctors listen to us?

  2. Yvette
    orlando
    Reply

    I have been on metoprolol for over 12 years for about a hundred milligrams a day. Recently, my doctor increased the dosage to 200mg. I just now started searching for the reason of my rapid hair loss, and thanks to your articles (the ones I have read so far) I’m convinced that this is the reason. Thank you for all the information that all of you have been kind enough to share.

  3. Maureen D
    Reply

    I was put on Amlodipine back in 2008 when all my BP meds were changed. I was already on Metropolol which doesn’t seem to bother me and keeps my BP nice and low even though I have gained weight. Recently, I went to a new endocrinologist (I’m Type II diabeteic) and he took me off Amlodipine saying it was a duplicate of another med I was on, Hydrochlorothiazide. Within 3 weeks I began to notice that my eyelashes were coming back (I had long beautiful lashes in younger years) they’re not as thick as before but at least they are growing again. And my fingernails are growing again! I told a friend about it and she immediately said what BP meds were you taken off of so I ‘googled’ it and this website came up. Doctors are not willing to talk about side effects! They always say “well, every medication has some side effects but don’t worry about it.” Well, somebody better. My thick fine hair was also thinning which I thought was due to getting older (65) but now that is returning to normal and the small bald patches are filling back in:) Maureen

  4. Carl
    Reply

    Hello, I was put on testosterone–lowest dosage 1mg every two weeks & ATENOLOL–25mg a day. I was on both for a little over two months. Last week I noticed my hair which has always been very thick which also hadn’t been cut in four months, went from looking like a bushman’s to the point where I can see my scalp. This happened over the course of five days! I stopped BOTH meds after seeing my Dr. this Monday. So it’s been three days & I’m going to get haircut today to see how much I’ve lost. I’m taking Biotin & all different types of vitamins to help. I will try Selenium too since I’ve read here that it helps. My Dr agreed with me absolutely that it was the Atenolol & NOT the testosterone since I’ve no bald patterns. Also my hair does NOT come out in my hands at all & I’ve no idea where all the hair went! I’m hoping & praying constantly for it to grow back. I’m also going to dermatologist tomorrow just in case. I’m hoping that in the next 2-4 months I’ll see results. ANYONE who says Atenolol doesn’t cause hair loss needs to educate themselves! Can anyone PLEASE just state HOW LONG it took for hair to grow back after stopping Atenolol? Thanks!

  5. JH
    Reply

    I am very thankful to have come across this and related sites regarding hair loss and beta-blockers. I am a 47 year old female who had very thick red wavy/curly hair. I mean super thick; to the point hairstylists would repeatedly comment on it. In the past it has not been too unusal to “shed” my hair kind of on a seasonal basis. (Usually the Spring).
    But, in the past 1-2 months I have noticed a tremendous amount of hair loss to the point where it is obviously thinning and has be concerned with balding as I can now see my scalp around my temples when pulled into a pony tail. Unlike many here who have taken atenolol, I have been on a low dosage of propranalol for almost a year. They are both beta-blockers but the latter has been around longer.
    I have been trying to figure out what I have done different in my diet or lifestyle, etc. Actually I have been working out for a few months and eating right, so I couldn’t imagine these two things having a negative impact.
    Since propranalol is the only medication I am on which for me it is for high BP, I figured I’d google beta-blockers and alopecia; propranalol and hair loss and anything related. I was stunned to find a ridiculous number of similar accounts. I stopped taking my medication earlier this week and it “seems” as though there have been slightly fewer hairs falling out, but still not enough to convince me that it has stopped. I’m sure it is too soon to tell, but I plan on getting back on this blog in a month to report back. I will also look into specific supplements that are named here previously along with any natural remedies.
    Incidentally, my nails have also become very brittle and have vertical ridges in them. This started many months ago, but just figured I needed to find a good multi-vitamin. The other thing is I have developed dry eyes and my feet and hands are frequently cold as well. I hope as others read these posts, they feel a sense of hope as I do.

  6. BB
    Reply

    I am 49 years old, attractive female, 20 pounds overweight and come from a family of thick hair. I have been taking 25 mg of atenolol for the past 3 years now. I started off with long thick hair, strong finger nails and normal facial skin. For the past year I started realizing that my hair was thinning quickly and I could see my scalp in several areas. My hair feels like mush when I wash it and I have ridges on my nails. My facial skin feels thick and aged. My body itches all the time and I no longer sleep well.
    I thought it was menopause. But when I think back now, I remember tons of hair on the ground from the beginning and my nails getting weird right off the bat. I just never considered that such a tiny pill held such power of my body.
    I chopped off half of my hair and went back to wearing bangs to see if maybe the hair just needed a break, it did seem to help a little bit. I changed shampoos, hair dye, got a new brush and started taking vitamins.
    I started taking bioton about 2 months ago and amped it up to 5000 mg, not sure if its working for the hair but I see an improvement with my fingernails and since I noticed the fingernails aging first, I am hoping the hair will jump on board too.
    After reading all of your very similar and informative info, I realized that I am going to have to go all the way with this. A complete life change. I think its time to take charge of my body again. I simply just have been too decadent with my eating, and drinking and yes smoking cigs. I am going to wean off the atenolol within the next 2 weeks and join a gym tomorrow.
    I’m going to stop drinking alcohol and quit smoking… These are all my favorite bad habits of a lifetime, also the reason I am taking atenolol. I think its the only correct way for me personally… It’s the same as putting sugar in a gas tank and wondering why the car won’t work anymore.
    It’s not going to be easy I realize, but the alternative is just too horrific to consider.. I guess my vanity is going to win on this one.. There is no other pill to take. This last pill has aged the crap out of me. It’s honestly aged me more than cigarettes, bad eating and drinking habits all put together.. Wish me luck, I just simply refuse to go bald. And how ridiculous am I that I talk about exercise, eating right and stopping smoking a bad thing….

  7. Patchy Face
    Reply

    I have had high blood pressure for about a year, was put on atenolol, and within a month my beard got oval bald patches, mostly around my chin and mouth, lips. Docs office said they can’t find anything about hair loss in the listed side effects, I did about 5 minutes of research and found hundreds of complaints. I also found listed in the less common/rare side effects, “may cause sudden death,” yes, sudden death. Some people have reactions, and of course we are going to voice our concerns, we are the ones who are suffering from taking these “safe” medicines. I can’t wait to get off this medicine, and hopefully get my facial hair back

  8. DawnB
    Reply

    Is there a another name for atenolol, or other drugs like it??

  9. DawnB
    Reply

    Why did you stop the Biotin, was it a culprit? Did the Dr. tell you not to use it? I take 3,000mg a day and have had hair loss since Nov 2012.. I am blaming it on several meds. I am taking, but not sure which it is.. :(

  10. Antoinette
    Reply

    I need some answer in helping my hair grow back for taking blood pressure pills.

  11. mjl
    Reply

    Been on atenolol for 13 to 14 years. I am almost bald headed. It’s driving me crazy, it started in spots, then it started breaking, then it stopped growing completely!!! Imagine that. I didn’t know your hair could just stop growing and then it donned on me that it was the medication(s) I was taking that had taken my Glory from me. I am 1 of 4 sisters and I was always the one with thick, long healthy hair. Now I am the one who is bald, but am the only one taking atenolol also.
    I stopped taking atenolol 2 weeks ago, I know I shouldn’t, but I have to try something. My doctor did tests, everything is fine. I went to a dermatologist he did a biopsy and nothing! So it must be the drugs just like everyone else is saying, but I digress, as I was saying I stopped taking it 2 weeks ago and now my hair is falling out even faster than before. So now I’m taking biotin, vitamin B12, folic acid and iron tablets. hopefully I won’t be sick in the next week, but I’m headed there quick, fast and in a hurry. I have to laugh to keep from crying. Can somebody help, help me please!!!!!

  12. LCF
    Reply

    I have been on Atenolol 25 mg for 15 years. I had suddenly developed ventricular tachycardia, had an ablation which didn’t take and 3 weeks later had it done again. As the doctor was removing the instrument, he “nicked” my heart and I almost died on the operating table. To help my heart with healing, he put me on the atenolol temporarily for a month, but afterwards, I was so terrified that the VT would return, I was afraid to stop taking it.
    Since it was such a small dose and since I recognized that it was more psychological than medical, the doctor said I could safely stay on it. It was definitely not hurting me and of course, was giving my heart extra support. All was well until about a year ago when my hair suddenly started becoming more and more sparse all around my hairline, right back to behind my ears!
    My family doctor said it alopecia and sent me to the dermatologist who said it was caused by stress or possibly something internal. I went to my heart doctor who said it was probably a family trait (not so as everyone in my family has THICK, wavy hair, like I used to have). I asked to be put on another med and he said I had to stay on the atenolol since I had been on it for so many years and that it definitely was not the culprit.
    He also said “do you realize how many women your age would be thrilled to have as much hair as you have now?” (I’m 75 and a newlywed-far from an old bald lady.) I went to the allergist and was tested for all kinds of contact dermatitis; everything was negative and he said it was alopecia. I went to my endo doctor who tested my TSH levels and all is well. She hasn’t a clue what it is either. Overall, I feel great except that I have trouble sleeping. All blood tests, etc. are in line right where they should be.
    So my question is, since I don’t really have HBP what meds are available similar to atenolol? Also, at times, my scalp just itches and itches with no known cause from any of the above doctors. And in the last two months, my nails just break off and will not grow. I have been taking (doctor prescribed) 5000 mgs of Biotin and 2000 Vitamin D, along with my Centrum Silver. I exercise at the Y, work part-time and eat healthy stuff, none of which helps. So, it’s got to be the Atenolol!!!!!
    I did not notice anyone mentioning an itchy scalp or nail problems.

    • SL
      New York
      Reply

      Hi LCF and others,

      I was reading the comments here. While the other comments here helped, I felt the need to reply to your comment. LCF, you mentioned nobody here mentioned an itchy scalp. Well, I have been taking Hydrochlorothiazide for HBP for a year now. My scalp itches where my hair is thinning.

      I have added Biotin 5,000 to my other vitamins I am currently taking. It does not appear to be helping. My doctor says “would your rather have a heart attack or..”. WHAT?! I’m sure you know what I felt like telling him. By the way he has a big bald spot so why should he care about me?

      Anyway, I have an appointment to see a Dermatologist in about 2 weeks. I have chosen a female doctor. No offense to male dermatologists, but I hope she will have a little more empathy. LCF, I applaud you for joining the gym in trying to lower your blood pressure. Good luck LCF and good luck to the rest of you all. I hope this helps . ~SL~

  13. mw
    Reply

    I took atenolol for 2 months 25mg a day, and after about two weeks I started noticing my hair looked a lot thinner and that it was falling out whenever I ran my hands through it. I used to have fairly thick hair, but now you can see my scalp. The hair loss was dramatic, and since the only thing I had changed in my daily routine was taking atenolol, I know, like many of you, that atenolol was the culprit.
    I stopped taking it cold turkey about 3 weeks ago (I know it’s not recommended, but the hair loss was so bad, and didn’t realize the side effects could potentially lead to heart attack)… anyway, after 3 weeks of not taking it, my hair continues to shed excessively when I run my hands through it or brush it. It also has a weird texture to it now like others have mentioned in previous posts.
    I was wondering if anyone knew how long it takes before the shedding stops and starts to grow back.
    Thanks for any help.

  14. Suz M.
    Reply

    I have been on Altenelol for a little over ten years. Only the last two have I noticed hair loss ! Now this past year at an alarming rate.. Hopefully a change in B/P meds will stop the hair loss.
    I had very thick hair so took awhile to notice.. now it is thin..and I am bummed. I appreciate these comments as I’m not the only one..and sounds reversible… thank you much..

  15. Suz M.
    Reply

    I have been on Altenelol for a little over ten years. Only the last two have I noticed hair loss ! Now this past year at an alarming rate.. Hopefully a change in B/P meds will stop the hair loss. I had very thick hair so took awhile to notice.. now it is thin..and I am bummed. I appreciate these comments as I’m not the only one..and sounds reversible… thank you much..

  16. khrissy
    Reply

    Amy.. i am a 23 year old female who was taking meteopolol.. i stopped taking it two month ago and im still lossing my hair :-(:-( how long did it takw you to stop losing and regrow after you stopped taking it?

  17. ankhunk
    Reply

    please tell me how can I stop hairloss?
    really frustrated. shall I go to hair expert?
    I am loosing 100 hairs everyday. I was on metoprolol.

  18. A.C.
    Reply

    Totally agree with your comment. Especially the last paragraph!

  19. Tee
    Reply

    thesubo1. Your comment was both kind and informative. I totally agreed with you that we need to take ownership of our own health. All doctors are not equal in their concern and knowledge. There is nothing wrong with doing your own research and/or getting a second, 3rd or even 4th medical opinion.

  20. thesub01
    Reply

    Hair loss is a big deal. I started taking Inderal for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome)and after approximately one month my once thick hair that had a lot of body started coming out so much I hated to brush my hair, cook (because my hair would fall out into the food,) etc. I looked like a scarecrow without enough stuffing under their hat. I mentioned it to my family doctor and as pretty much all the other posts state, he just shrugged his shoulders and told me baldness most likely ran in my family (all my relatives still have their hair) and I was pretty young to be losing mine – geesh! He also told me not to worry about it – good plan doc!
    On my own, I started taking 200 mcg of selenium and within a very short period of time my hair started thickening up to the point that once again I have to have it thinned when I get my hair styled. Don’t give up looking for a solution and don’t accept pat answers from the medical community. Also, would not listen to these folks who say things like I’ve taken it for 10 years without a problem, ergo there is no problem with beta blockers.
    All people don’t react the same to all medications. I don’t have a reaction to penicillin, but that doesn’t mean others don’t get very severe reactions. We as patients need to take ownership of our own health and if you aren’t getting the right answers, go somewhere else and find someone who will listen. Don’t just sit there and cry as your hair is falling out on the sofa.

  21. girdwood
    Reply

    Yikes! Do some of you not realize that having a stroke or heart attack can leave you brain damaged or paralyzed or unable to care for yourself? Alive but unable to walk or speak or maybe even swallow your food?
    Stopping blood pressure medications is dangerous! Do your best to lose weight, walk a lot, eat vegetables and maybe eventually you can lower your blood pressure without medication. Ace inhibitors like lisinopril can cause coughing, life threatening angioedema of the throat and even pancreatitis.
    Beta blockers cause fatigue and hair loss. I would rather pay for a wig than a nursing home bed, I’ll keep taking my beta blocker every day and be thankful that hair loss is the only side effect. Sure beats dying young with a full head of hair.

  22. catalina
    Reply

    Hi
    Discuss your hair loss symptoms with your doctor. The extent to which your hair falls out due to medication will depend on your genetics, and the strands will often come out in patches that resemble patterned balding. Your doctor will take a medical history from you and conduct a series of tests such as the hair pull test, a scalp biopsy and a blood test to determine the cause of your hair loss. If your medication is making your hair fall out, your physician may switch your medications or alter your dosage, if possible.
    This was an excellent article. It has some valuable content on this topic. Thank you for compiling it into an easy to read and well written post.
    Thank you

  23. P.F.
    Reply

    I also was taking metoprolol and losing my hair. I lost 28 pounds, blood pressure went down, I stopped taking my metoprolol, and seven months later I started growing my hair back!!!! It sure makes me HAPPY!!

  24. Tee
    Reply

    I too had major hair loss which was caused by my high blood pressure meds. I took 25mg of Hydrochlorothiazide for two years and my once thick shoulder length hair began coming out in my hands when I touched my hair. My hair was also dry and brittle and was growing at a VERY slow rate and had stopped growing completely in some areas
    After test for Thyroid, low iron and hormones all come back fine, I stopped taking my meds and started taking Biotin.
    Yes. Biotin DOES work (at least for me). I started taking Biotin daily w/a multi vitiam and my hair has started to grow again and it was no longer dry and brittle. I had normal had loss b/c not excessive like when I was on the medication.
    I started re-taking my blood pressure meds and the excessive hair loss started again. I also continued to take Biotin and a multi vitiam, but it did NOT counter the hair loss caused by my med. I am now 100% certain that it is my medication that caused the loss of my thick hair. I am now on 20mg of Lisinopril and so far no hair loss problem.

  25. Beeve
    Reply

    I too have been on the beta blocker metoprolol for about 4 months and have noticed that my hair is thinning and falling out. I am also on lisinopril. I see my Dr. this week and will tell him to take me off the metoprolol. I am so happy to hear that the hair grows back once you were off this medication. I still hope that maybe I can lower by BP without these meds which cause so many other problems.

  26. Yvonne P.
    Reply

    I’ ve been on propranolol given to me by a neurologist for migraines since March and my hair has been falling out since the end of April. I had thick healthy hair and now its thinner and has a weird feel to it. My eyebrows are patchy as well. The doctors don’t say it’s the propranolol but after reading this I am convinced it is.
    I’ve had blood tests done and everything came out fine. My hair wasn’t falling out before March so it’s pretty obvious it’s the drug! A few years ago I took metroprpolol and I lost my eyelashes.
    I am weaning myself of of 4-40mg a day down slowly so I will be off of them soon. It’s so frustrating having your doctor not tell you the truth about a drug. He wants me to go to a dermatologist so they can tell me what’s wrong since he cant’t and I can’t get into her until Oct! Its not considered an urgent issue!
    I should be bald by then I said. After reading all the comments I am going with my intuition and will stop taking this medicine. I really hope it grows back:(
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
    Do discuss this with your MD. It is never a good idea to stop a beta blocker like propranolol or metoprolol suddenly. You will also need something else to prevent the migraines. You may want to check our our guide to Headaches and Migraines for some other options that you can discuss with your doctor.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.