Tracking hair loss and hair regrowth is a difficult process. It’s easy to see when a patient has lost at least 50% of the hair in one area. However, quantifying hair loss before the balding stage (when patients are just noticing more hair in the shower drain) is not down to a perfect science. Using global photography, dermatologists trained in hair restoration can attempt to measure hair loss, but variables like hair length, changing hair color, and different hair styles can have an impact on results. Other forms of measurement like hair densitometry (measure of density) have limitations including the need to trim the hair to take measurements. The newest measure of hair “thickness” is the HairCheck® developed by a fellow dermatologist, Dr. Bernard Cohen.
In a recent study, hair restoration specialists in Florida tested a newer form of hair loss measurement called hair bundle cross-section trichometry. During the study, 250 patients’ hair loss was quantified using this technique that measured both hair density and the diameter of hair to calculate a figure called Hair Mass Index (HMI) for each patient. These measurements also took hair breakage into account, where other forms of hair loss tracking could not. Not only were the doctors looking to find a new way to help with hair loss diagnosis and treatment, but also to help patients better understand their individual hair loss condition and treatment processes.
Each patient’s hair loss and treatment was measured every 90 days beginning in November 2009 until September 2011. While any new method of calculation or tracking takes time and effort the researchers found that the use of this type of tracking can not only help doctors provide their patients with quick and easy-to-understand information, but they can also better detect and quantify non-visible (early) thinning in male patients. They were also able to differentiate diffuseness with pattern baldness in women. The method also helped track patients with telogen effluvium as well as monitor the effectiveness of topical and oral hair restoration medications and nutritional changes much more quickly and effectively than other tracking methods.
Researchers also noticed a difference in patient response to the measurement efforts. When patients were presented with a graphical representation along with a personal explanation of their hair loss treatment progress, they were more likely to comply with the treatment efforts (take medications regularly, complete medications through prescribed course, etc.). As Dr. Edmond Griffin can attest, patient education is one of the determining factors in a successful hair loss treatment. When patients are aware of their hair loss treatment options they are more likely to follow through with treatment requirements, and therefore, receive better hair restoration results.
Newer technology like the hand-held HairCheck® device helps dermatologists to quickly measure HMI and determine if hair loss, growth, or breakage has occurred on any area of the scalp. This means that patients can know if their medications are working properly and dermatologists can adjust treatment accordingly.
Hair loss is a case-sensitive condition. The causes vary from patient to patient. However, newer technologies and methods in hair loss diagnosis and treatment planning can help hair restoration specialists better accommodate each patient with a tailored treatment plan. Studies like this are important in hair loss research to help both doctors and patients reap the benefits of proper treatment and patient compliance.