Hair Loss Treatment Overview
Everyone loses some hair every day. The average person might lose as many as 100 hairs per day. There are certain genetic conditions, diseases, and disorders that cause premature and excessive hair loss.
If you start to notice significant hair loss or hair thinning, consult a dermatologist to see if the cause and available treatments can be identified.
Hair Loss Causes
Hair loss, or alopecia, may be caused by a number of conditions. There are different forms of alopecia, as well as other factors that can contribute to baldness or thinning hair.
Hair Loss in Men
Androgenic alopecia is commonly known as male pattern baldness, however androgenic alopecia can affect both men and women (see female pattern baldness). It is a hereditary condition that can come from genes on either side of your family tree and can cause hair loss to occur as early as the teenage years.
The development of androgenic alopecia is not only related to genetic predisposition, but also the aging process and the presence of hormones and corresponding receptors. Baldness starts when the male sex hormone DHT triggers hair follicles to shrink over time (follicular miniaturization) and stop growing new hair.
For men, hair loss typically begins at the hairline and crown and may continue until only hair around the sides and back of the head remains, creating a horseshoe shape of hair.
Hair Loss in Women
Androgenic alopecia also triggers what is commonly referred to as female pattern baldness. DHT, the same sex hormone that triggers pattern baldness in men is responsible for pattern baldness in women.
The difference between female pattern baldness and male pattern baldness, aside from the fact that one affects women and the other, men, is the typical baldness pattern that is seen.
Balding women tend to experience diffuse thinning or loss of hair across the entire head, and sometimes at the crown, but the hairline is maintained. Men typically experience hairline recession in an "M" shape and hair loss on the crown.
Other Hair Loss Causes
- Alopecia Areata - an auto-immune condition with no known cause that results in patchy hair loss on the scalp
- Alopecia Totalis - an auto-immune condition with no known cause that results in loss of all hair on the scalp
- Alopecia Universalis - an auto-immune condition with no known cause that result in loss of all hair on the entire body, including the scalp
- Traction alopecia - a condition that occurs when the scalp is scarred and hair roots are damaged from overstyling or pulling hair too tightly in hairstyles like ponytails, braids, or pigtails
- Trichotillomania - a psychological disorder that causes people to compulsively pull out their hair from the scalp, brows, or elsewhere
- Hyperhidrosis - a condition that causes excessive sweating, resulting in lactic acid secretion that can harm the hair and scalp
- Hormonal changes or imbalance - may be caused by pregnancy, birthing, discontinuing use of birth control medication or devices that affect hormones, menopause onset, thyroid conditions, and severe emotional trauma or shock
- Medical treatments - such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer
- Medications - such as Accutane, blood thinners, anti-inflammatories, anti-fungals and drugs used to treat depression, high blood pressure, ulcers, thyroid disorders, Parkinson's, heart disease, gout, glaucoma, epilepsy, cholesterol, etc.
- Infections - such as tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp), a contagious fungal infection that causes patches of hair loss
- Disease - such as diabetes, cancer, and lupus
- Hair styling - causes hair loss when hair is excessively brushed or styled, or when chemicals for dying, bleaching, perming, or straightening hair are overused or used incorrectly
- Nutritional deficiencies - may be caused by unhealthy dieting, eating disorders, or generally poor nutrition
Hair Loss Prevention
Although altering your genetic makeup may one day be an option for hair loss prevention, there isn't much that can be done to prevent hair loss in those who are genetically predisposed to conditions like pattern baldness or those who develop disorders like trichotillomania.
However, taking good care of your hair, avoiding overstyling or frequent chemical exposure, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and monitoring your overall health are a few steps anyone can take to help hair stay healthy (and on your head).
Hair Loss Treatment
Hair loss treatment should start with getting proper treatment for any disease or disorder causing your hair loss. You can also hide thinning hair or baldness with scarves, a hair piece, or masking spray while you explore treatment options, including:
- Topical treatments
- Oral medications
- LED therapy (laser treatment)
- Surgical hair restoration
Hair transplant techniques, such micro-grafts, follicular unit transfer, and single unit transfers are generally performed on patients who desire a fuller, thicker head of hair.
There are a number of techniques used in hair replacement surgery – from flap transfers to single follicular unit grafting. These techniques produce a much more natural appearance than older techniques of plug grafting. For best results, multiple techniques may be used.
Hair Loss Products
- Rogaine - Topical minoxidil medication for men and women with mild to moderate hair loss. FDA approved to treat male and female pattern baldness in adults (this is the only FDA approved treatment for female pattern baldness).
- Propecia - Oral finasteride medication for men with mild to moderate hair loss. FDA approved to treat male pattern baldness in adults.
- Aldactone - Oral spironolactone medication used off label to treat pattern baldness in adults.
More About Hair Loss on RealSelf:
Sources: D.J. Verret, MD; Neil Sadick, MD; Steven Wallach, MD; Gregory Turowski, MD; Bryan Chen, MD; Steven Ringer, MD; Toby Mayer, MD
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