Men, women, and children can experience hair loss for a number of different reasons as we discussed in Part 1 of the Women’s Hair Loss blog series. Women experiencing hair loss can go through discouraging trips to doctors and still not understand the cause of their hair loss. As suggested in Part 1, a dermatologist can be a good starting point. Women experiencing hair loss may need tests to get to the correct diagnosis, but don’t grow weary, as the right doctor will take steps to get to the source of your thinning hair. As each hair loss case is different, there is an approach to this puzzle.
At your consultation, your doctor will ask questions about your hair loss. It’s important to give the doctor the most detailed and accurate answers possible. You will need to discuss how long your hair loss has been occurring, and any pimples, scaling, pain, family history, hormonal problems, and associated events like deaths/operations, etc. Next, your doctor should carefully examine your hair and scalp. This allows him or her to correlate his or her years of experience with your physical appearance. This step is imperative in coming to a conclusion about your hair loss because so much subtle information is gained by just a simple examination.
After the consultation, your doctor will typically perform tests, both blood and others, as part of the exam. The tests will be determined by information gathered during consultation. These tests may include: hair pull test, hair shed/pull collection, scalp biopsy, and blood tests. Each test serves a different purpose:
• Hair Pull Test: A cluster of about 50 hairs will be gently pulled. For the average person, about four hairs will usually detach per pull, but people with a hair loss condition will lose more. A greater loss will be seen in patients who have not shampooed recently. The detached hairs can then be examined for irregularities of the shaft and the roots.
• Hair Shed/Comb Out Collection: At home, the patient performs this test by collecting hairs that will be shed in the shower, sink or comb/brush each day for 3-5 days. Each day, the collection will involve you combing your hair with a clean brush for about one minute over the sink and collecting all detached hairs for that day and placing them in a plastic bag. Additional hairs that you collect from your shower, sink, or comb throughout the rest of the day should be added should be added to your bag. Repeat the same sequence on day 2, 3, 4, and 5, and bring all the bags back to your doctor for an evaluation. This will allow him to follow and determine the severity of your shedding.
• Scalp Biopsy: This test is sometimes, but not always, indicated. However, it is especially important when there are more than one diagnoses considered or when the diagnosis is questionable. A scalp biopsy is particularly important for scarring alopecias. After a local anesthetic is administered, the doctor removes a small piece of skin from the scalp (about 1/5 of an inch in size–the size of a pencil eraser) for further examination.
• Blood Tests: Useful information from blood tests is limited, but it may help rule out other conditions that could contribute to hair loss, such as hormonal or thyroid conditions. Your doctor will decide which blood tests may be appropriate for you based on the information gathered during consultation. Once all data is reviewed a diagnosis can be obtained with a high degree of certainty.
Hair loss is a frustrating condition, especially as a woman. While this battery of tests may seem excessive, making the correct diagnosis is paramount to outline the proper treatment course for your particular problem.
Dr. Edmond Griffin, founder of The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, has dedicated his life to researching hair loss and hair restoration techniques. For more information on women’s hair loss or hair loss in general, visit his website and continue reading his blog. If you’re experiencing hair loss, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation today.