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Women’s Hair Loss: Causes and Treatments

For years, hair loss was considered an exclusively male issue.  However, as we have come to understand the mechanisms involved in hereditary pattern hair loss, and as more and more women have sought treatment, it has become clear that women’s hair loss is a much bigger issue than any had previously considered.  In fact, approximately 21 million women in the United States are experiencing some form of hair loss right now, and it is believed that as many as 80% of all women will experience noticeable hair loss by the time they reach 60.  While most women don’t notice the hair loss until they are in their 50s or 60s, it can happen at any age and for a variety of reasons.

hair loss women atlantaIn addition to hereditary female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, the hair’s growth cycle can be interrupted by anything from the hormonal variances of pregnancy or thyroid disease, to autoimmune disorders and overly tight hairstyles.  Even seemingly unrelated issues like emotional stress or anemia can play a role in hair loss.  Because the causes of women’s hair loss can be so varied, developing an effective treatment plan must be tailored specifically for each unique case.  However, at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, Dr. Edmond Griffin and Dr. Ashley Curtis consult with each patient and carefully examine each individual case to determine which specific form of hair restoration treatment will be the most effective.

While there are a number or non-surgical hair restoration treatments available at The Griffin Center, sometimes the most effective solution for women experiencing hair loss is hair restoration surgery.  Women are often excellent candidates for the follicular unit grafting (FUG) technique.  The process involves the removal of a very narrow strip of hair follicles from the back or sides of the head, which is then carefully dissected under a microscope into individual follicular units which can be surgically grafted into balding areas.  As the progression of androgenetic alopecia in women generally leaves the back and sides of the scalp with more than adequate coverage, there is seldom any difficulty in locating a donor region from which follicular grafts can be harvested.  Moreover, the linear scar left behind is easily hidden by hairstyles that keep the hair long and thick in the back.  An alternative technique, follicular unit extraction (FUE) with NeoGraft, which uses an automated device to facilitate the follicular extraction process and minimize scarring, has also become increasingly popular.  We will carefully evaluate your individual requirements and treatment goals in order to determine the best technique for you.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments, please contact The Griffin Center today.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more hair loss information.

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Monday, August 25th, 2014 Blog, Women's Hair Loss No Comments

Keeping Your Hair Healthy

As board certified dermatologists at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, Dr. Edmond Griffin and I enjoy getting an opportunity to educate patients about hair loss prevention and hair restoration treatments.  To provide an added resource for those interested in learning more about hair loss, we regularly discuss various hair loss topics on our YouTube channel.  Recently, I shared my thoughts on how various hair care practices can affect hair and hair loss.

In this video, I recommend the use of loose, natural hair styles to prevent traction alopecia, a condition that arises when constant tension is placed on the hair follicles by tight hairstyles like cornrows or tight braids and pony tails, or sew-in hairpieces.  This constant tension can cause damage to the scalp, resulting in an overall thinning of the hair.  I further discuss specific products and techniques that you should use, and avoid, in order to control hair dryness and breakage so that your hair can remain thick and healthy looking.

Take a look at my video below to learn more about how you can care for your hair.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ . If you are interested in discussing hair loss or hair restoration options, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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What is Alopecia Areata?

At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we realize that hair loss can result from a wide variety of different causes and that every individual cause should be treated differently.  That’s why every case of alopecia needs a diagnosis; there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” treatment.  Even though the majority of cases may be the result of androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, it is important to understand the many other potential causes of hair loss.  One such cause is alopecia areata, a common auto-immune disorder that affects an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States alone.

Alopecia AreataThose suffering from alopecia areata begin losing hair in one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp.  This can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or even the complete loss of all body hair (alopecia universalis).  While the disease can affect men and women of all ages, it does seem to present more often in the young.  Up to 66% of patients are younger than 30, while only 20% are older than 40.  Alopecia areata is highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person.

Typically, alopecia areata interrupts the natural process of hair growth.  The body’s natural immune system (white blood cells) attacks the base of the hair follicle during the anagen, or growth phase, as though the hair was an invading disease.  This pushes the follicle prematurely into the catagen phase, where hair stops growing.  Additionally, the natural inflammation caused by the body’s immune response further weakens the hair shaft in the hair canal, allowing it to be even more easily shed.  All this results in the sudden and rapid loss of hair in the areas affected.

Alopecia areata occurs in two forms: a mild patchy form where less than 50 percent of scalp hair is lost and an extensive form where greater than 50 percent of scalp hair is lost. These two forms of alopecia areata behave quite differently, and the specific treatment depends on which form is present.  There is no cure for alopecia areata; the current treatments do not turn alopecia areata off but simply decrease the inflammation around the hair shafts and stimulate the follicle to produce hair again.  There are numerous reported treatment options for alopecia areata, ranging from topical cortisones and cortisone injections to oral medications and even light treatments.  Initial treatments, typically involving cortisoneinjections or topically applied minoxidil, need to be continued until the disease naturally goes into remission.  Fortunately, no matter how widespread the hair loss, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal.  Hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and as many as 75% of cases resolve spontaneously within a year.  However there are cases where the hairs do not respond to the many treatment options available and therefore remain dormant without regrowth.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments, please contact The Griffin Center today.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more hair loss information.

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Monday, August 18th, 2014 Blog, Educational No Comments

Common Causes of Children’s Hair Loss

The experience of losing one’s hair can be emotionally difficult for anyone, even when they happen to be children suffering from hair loss.  Children often do not understand what is happening, and other children may subject the child to teasing and bullying as a result of the condition.  Hair loss in children is often difficult to diagnose.  While the vast majority of hair loss in male adults, for example, is caused by male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, the causes of children’s hair loss can be much more varied.  However, since treatment needs to be specifically tailored to the cause of the hair loss, proper diagnosis is extremely important.  Fortunately, while there are a number of possible causes for children’s hair loss, some of the most common are easily remedied.

childrens hair loss treatmentsThe most common cause of hair loss in children is tinea capitis, a disease caused by a superficial fungal infection of the skin of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.  Also known as ringworm of the scalp, this form of superficial mycosis is becoming increasingly common in the US and other regions of the world.  Children with tinea capitis usually have itching associated with hair loss in round or oval patches, with some broken-off hairs visible just above the surface of the scalp.  In some cases, gray flakes or scales can be seen.  Tinea capitis is treated with anti-fungal medications.  Early identification and treatment of tinea capitis can prevent permanent hair loss and scarring on the scalp.  Another common cause of hair loss in children is the autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata.  This can come on rapidly, resulting in a circle of complete baldness with no itching or scaling.

Children can also suffer from hair loss as a result of direct damage to the hair itself.  Wearing the hair for long periods of time in tight hairstyles that pull on the scalp (like pigtails or braids) can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia.  Moreover, some children damage their own hair as a result of an obsessive-compulsive disorder called trichotillomania, the habit of twirling or plucking the hair.  In these cases, the hair loss is patchy, and characterized by broken hairs of varying length.  In all of these cases, as long as the hair trauma was not severe or chronic enough to cause scarring, the hair will eventually regrow when the trauma is stopped.  In cases where it does not grow back, hair restoration may be an option.  It is important to educate parents to avoid tight hairstyles in children in order to prevent hair loss as an adult.

Telogen effluvium is another common cause of hair loss in children.  During the normal life cycle of a hair follicle, it goes through several distinct stages, eventually reaching a resting, or telogen stage, where it sheds its hair and lies dormant before starting a new growth cycle.  At any given point in time, 10% to 15% of a person’s hair is in the telogen phase.  However, in telogen effluvium, some unexpected stress on the body interrupts this cycle, throwing a large number of hair follicles into telogen phase all at once.  As a result, hair begins to shed in large amounts.  Extremely high fevers, surgery under general anesthesia, severe prolonged emotional stress (such as a death of a loved one), severe injuries and even the use of certain prescription medication can all cause sufficient shock to the body to cause telogen effluvium.  Fortunately, since the growth cycle is only interrupted, not stopped, hair usually regrows within six months to a year.

Although much less common, children can also have congenital forms of hair loss as well as hair loss due to vitamin or mineral deficiencies.  It is important to have a full evaluation by a physician who specializes in hair loss to accurately diagnose and treat the condition.
If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ .

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Thursday, August 14th, 2014 Blog, Educational, Hair Loss No Comments

What Can Xeljanz® Do for You?

For almost forty years, The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research has been on the cutting edge of research into the prevention and treatment of hair loss.  Recently there has been a great deal of talk about how Xeljanz®, an anti-inflammatory drug used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, may be able to cause significant hair regrowth in patients suffering from some forms of hair loss.

Xeljanz® (tofacitinib) is a medication that calms down the immune system.  Normally, our immune systems do a good job of protecting our bodies from foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.  It recognizes its own cells and does not see them as foreign.   When individuals suffer from an auto-immune disease, however, the body’s own immune system essentially begins attacking itself.  In rheumatoid arthritis this causes pain and swelling at the joints; in alopecia areata the inflammation occurs in the scalp, shutting down the generation of new hair and causing existing hair to fall out.

Xeljanz® is a JAK inhibitor, which means that it interferes with cell signaling that causes inflammation.  Previously, Xeljanz® had been used to treat the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, and so it was theorized that, since alopecia areata is also the result of inflammation caused by auto-immune response, the drug might be able to treat this condition as well, even though it is currently not FDA-approved for this purpose.  When Xeljanz® was used on a patient who had suffered from alopecia universalis, a severe form of alopecia areata that results in the complete loss of hair all over the body, the patient experienced full regrowth of hair on his head, as well as the return of the eyebrows and eyelashes he had lost, in just eight months.  This treatment was using the oral form of Xeljanz for over 6 months costing about $2000 per month. Topical Xeljanz does also work for psoriasis and we are looking at ways to keep the costs down for a topical formula.

In alopecia areata, the hair follicle does remain capable of producing hair; it is only the ongoing action of the immune system that keeps the follicle in a continual dormant state.  Many patients can experience remission, or periods of time when the disease stops acting on the body and the immune system behaves normally.  During these periods, hair regrowth typically occurs.  By inhibiting the immune response, Xeljanz® seems to have allowed the natural growth of hair to resume.  It is, unfortunately, unclear whether the effects will remain if the drug treatment is discontinued, or if the disease will simply resume once more.  It is also important to note that alopecia areata and its related conditions affect only about 2% of the population.  Androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness associated with age, affects approximately ten times as many people and is not caused by auto-immune response.  So it will not benefit from treatment with Xeljanz®.

Further studies on Xeljanz® and its role in the treatment of auto-immune hair loss need to be conducted, but this is a promising advance in the hair restoration field.  Peony extract has also received press regarding its use in this autoimmune problem, as well as other problems with the same mechanism.  Several of our patients are now trying the extract, which costs much less than Xeljanz. If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments, please contact The Griffin Center today.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more hair loss information.

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Monday, August 11th, 2014 Blog, Hair Loss, Whats New No Comments

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