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.
Hair loss is supposed to be a problem that only aging men face, right? Wrong. Women also experience hair loss for a multitude of reasons including: genetics (androgenetic alopecia), hormonal changes (i.e. – menopause, birth control, and thyroid conditions), physical or emotional stress, ongoing illness, anemia, rapid weight loss, and certain medications. In fact, according to Dr. Edmond Griffin, female hair loss patients at his practice have tripled in the past decade. Since women’s hair loss is such a taboo topic, women struggle to know who to turn to when their hair starts falling out.
Hair loss can be a problem with women on hormone replacement when the hormone replacement includes a small dose of testosterone, particularly if she has genetic pattern hair loss. It is important for these women to use preventative hair loss medicines. Propecia® fills the need for men and will do the same for most women who are past child-bearing years.
Women facing hair loss may start discussing their problems with their hair stylist. While trained stylists know a good bit about hair in general, they may not be familiar with the conditions that cause it. A doctor will most likely employ a simple blood test and physical examination to pinpoint the hair loss cause. But, if your hair loss is not a symptom of a major body system abnormality, you may need to seek the expertise of someone with more specialized medical knowledge.
An endocrinologist, or gynecologist with a strong endocrinology background, is a specialist in hormonal disorders, and may be able to better identify the problem or direct you to a better-suited specialist. If the condition does not seem directly linked to a hormone fluctuation or imbalance, your endocrinologist may refer you to a dermatologist. Unlike endocrinologist whose knowledge is very specific, most dermatologists are trained to understand and treat a broader spectrum of issues involving skin, hair, and nails. Women suffering from hair loss should seek a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in hair loss disorders, specifically, female-pattern hair loss.
If you’ve exhausted medical opinions, a trichologist, or hair expert (non-medical) may be able to provide non-medical approaches for optimal hair growth. A trichologist will give you advice on diet, nutritional supplements, hygiene, and various other approaches. It’s important when working with a trichologist that you only select one who works closely with a doctor. Doing so limits the risk of employing a treatment that could negatively affect any existing medical conditions.
Doing research online may also help you answer some questions you have initially. However, use caution when researching hair loss online because the internet is full of people who claim to have the miracle cure. Because hair loss has so many causes, there is no one cure.
This may all seem like an overwhelming who’s who of hair loss, but Dr. Griffin of the Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research will be authoring a series on the subject of women’s hair loss to enlighten patients with the condition. Having seen countless cases of hair loss in men, women, and children; Dr. Griffin will take the necessary steps to find a specific solution for you. There are solutions to hair loss: it starts with finding the right doctor.
As we’ve discussed previously on our blog, genetically linked balding (androgenetic alopecia) can be treated with topical, botanically derived treatments. The most common treatments for male pattern loss remains the topical formula which includes minoxidil and the oral medication finesteride resulting in 80-90% halting the progression of hair loss. For hair loss where inflammation is prominent, like alopecia areata, the steroid cortisone is the treatment option for hair restoration since surgery is certainly not an option.
The term STEROID conjures images of muscular athletes and body builders, but it should be known that there are some viable, medical uses for cortisone, a type of steroid. Anabolic –androgenic steroids are often the culprit behind over-developed muscles and the super human athletic abilities you hear about in the news. This class of steroids works primarily to facilitate the rapid growth of muscle and allows for enhanced endurance. This happens because anabolic-androgenic steroids mimic sex linked androgens like testosterone that signal the body to boost protein synthesis and create muscle. One downside to these steroids is that they often accelerate hair loss in men and women who are genetically predisposed to balding (among other side effects when used in high doses without caution.)
Corticosteroids are also a class of steroids; which work to mimic the naturally occurring hormone cortisone. According to an article published by the International Alliance of hair Restoration Surgeons (IAHRS), corticosteroids are used in hair-restoration therapy for their ability to regulate the body’s inflammatory response, allergic reactions, and the symptoms of auto-immune disorders. Any alopecia involving scarring such as lupus would be considered a type of balding which would be responsive to cortisones. Alopecia areata, is balding exhibited as perfectly round, smooth circles on the scalps of men, women, and children. With this condition, monthly injections of very dilute cortisone are injected just under the skin just to the depth of the hair follicles which inhibits the inflammation of white blood cells: allowing hair regrowth within 1 to 4 months (typically). The limited use of this cortisone is very safe and usually results in no side effects and does not suppress the body’s immune system.
In this age of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), many patients both men and women have been given topical or injections of low dose hormone replacement. All these medications can increase the natural balding of the patient. These persons should especially investigate the use of a blocker like finesteride so that the messenger of baldness, DHT, will be blocked and baldness will be prevented. This advice applies to both males and females. Of course, females of child bearing age should not use finesteride without understanding its uses and its potential side effects.
It is of utmost importance that you seek the medical advice from your dermatologist before you begin taking any steroid-like product for hair restoration and regrowth. To learn more about the other non-surgical hair-loss treatments available through Dr. Edmond Griffin visit The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research’s website, contact their office, or subscribe to their blog.
For many cancer patients, after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off, there’s deep anxiety about losing one’s hair due to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy consists of variable chemical combinations of oral and IV administered medications that attack rapidly-growing cells within the body. While the efficacy of chemo to attack cancer cells is amazing, it also attacks the rapidly multiplying cells within the scalp that control hair growth.
While there is little, advisable, treatment to prevent chemo-related hair loss, The Mayo Clinic cites the potential of topical, daily application of Minoxidil (Rogaine®) to aid in the re-growth of hair after patients have completed their full round(s) of treatment. For most chemotherapy-related hair-loss patients (both male and female), hair does not begin to re-grow until several weeks after their final dose of chemo. Most, but not all, cancer drugs result in hair regrowth after treatment. Ask your oncologist if the drug he plans to use has been associated with permanent hair loss. If chemo is being administered intravenously, an inflated blood pressure cuff placed on the forehead and around the back of the head as low as possible has been suggested to reduce the loss of hair in patients. The blood pressure cuff raises the patient’s systolic pressure to help prevent circulation of the drugs into the scalp.
Minoxidil (Rogaine®) is usually recommended for non-cancer patients who have just begun to lose their hair because of the product’s ability to maintain existing strands. Because chemotherapy destroys cells completely, including those that determine hair’s color and texture, it is not unusual for the first hair that appears after cancer treatment to be a different texture or color than it was before treatment. Also, because hair growth is a cyclical process that can take months to occur, topical hair-growth product users should know that treatment will require regular, daily application to become effective.
In addition to Minoxidil, Finasteride (Proscar ®/Propecia ®) is another very popular topical product for genetically linked baldness in men. As you may have read in his blog though, Dr. Edmond Griffin has developed a topical, botanical alopecia treatment made with melatonin that shows great promise for hair-loss in women.
While Minoxidil (Rogaine®) hair restoration treatment is promising for future use in cancer survivors, because of the lack of substantiated scientific research, it’s important to note that Minoxidil (Rogaine®) non-surgical hair-loss treatment has not yet been proven for this specific problem. This point reiterates the importance of working with board certified physicians aware of the most recent innovations in maintaining your health after cancer treatment and recovery.
To learn more about the other hair-loss treatment options available through The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research visit their website, read their blog, or contact their offices.