There is a tentative connection between sertraline and hair loss, but it is only a rare and probably temporary side effect of the treatment. Despite the low probability of the drug causing hair loss, it is widely regarded as a possible side effect. The likelihood a patient who is taking the drug experiencing hair loss is between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000. Any patients experiencing the side effect should discuss it with a medical professional, who may be able to suggest an alternative treatment for the original condition, allowing the hair to grow back.
Many antidepressant drugs, including sertraline and fluoxetine, are known to cause hair loss in some patients. It is considered to be a rare side effect, however. The relatively high rate of hair loss among the general population can make it difficult to determine whether it is actually the drug that is causing the problem. The interaction occurs in less than 1% of patients taking the drug, so if a patient has hair loss in his or her family, this is more likely to be the cause.
Sertraline is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is used to treat depression. Many medical professionals believe that an imbalance of neurotransmitters within the brain is the cause of depression. The main neurotransmitter believed to be of particular importance is serotonin, and sertraline works by preventing the nerve which produced the chemical from taking it back up. Another neurotransmitter, dopamine, is also prevented from being taken up by the same nerve by this drug. Some medical professionals believe that this could be a possible cause for the link between sertraline and hair loss.
Studies have shown that some patients initially taking other antidepressant medications, such as fluoxetine, did not experience hair loss until they were changed onto sertraline. The key difference between the two is the effect the drug has on dopamine levels. This research has shown that sertraline could be more closely linked with hair loss than other similar drugs. Patients have shown hair loss while taking this drug, but have none whatsoever during fluoxetine treatment before and after taking sertraline. This effect can occur in both male and female patients.
Generally speaking — if the patient does not have a family history of hair loss — the loss will stop if the patient stops taking sertraline. In some ways, this makes the link more pronounced, because it specifically occurs when the patient is taking the drug. Patients having trouble with sertraline and hair loss should consult a medical professional, who may be able to suggest an alternative treatment that does not cause this side effect. If there is a family history of hair loss, however, the condition may never correct itself, even when the patient stops taking the drug.