The Fundamentals of Hair Loss Treatment
National dermatological studies have determined that approximately 40 percent of men will have noticeable hair loss by the time they are age 35. Approximately 65 percent of women will experience hair loss by the time they turn 60. Even younger people are experiencing more hair loss. Although it's not clear why, hormone levels typically are involved.
It can happen gradually, or quickly. And when it's the latter, the stress is so intense, it can trigger even more hair loss.
Unless male or female pattern baldness runs in the family, it takes a doctor to make a proper diagnosis about the cause of hair loss. It is particularly important to see a physician as soon as possible when hair loss is sudden and extreme.
Topical minoxidil is the most common treatment offered for many types of hair loss. Minoxidil and finasteride (marketed under the brand names Propecia or Proscar) are currently the only FDA-approved treatments for hair loss.
Originally invented as an ingestible blood-pressure medicine that regrew hair as a side effect, minoxidil was introduced in the 1980s under the brand name Rogaine. It is considered safe and is Food and Drug Administration approved.
Minoxidil works by revitalizing shrunken hair follicles, increasing their size. It is far from a cure for hair loss, however. Patients have to keep using it or their hair loss resumes when they stop.
Minoxidil is available in prescription and over-the-counter forms and has proven to be effective (in about 85 percent of cases) for treating both men and women. Studies have found that minoxidil is especially effective when it is started in the early stages of hair loss.
For Female Pattern Hair Loss, the medical treatment includes Spironolactone and Minoxidil. The Spironolactone has weak anti-androgen action hence it needs to be used at higher dosages and for a prolonged time. The dosage should be 100-200 mg per day.
Caution needs to be employed that if the woman is fertile birth control needs to be used because of the potential feminization of male fetus. Also the monitoring of the serum potassium (K+) needs to done monthly since Spironolactone is a K + sparing diuretic. Rogaine 5% should be used twice per day for the first 6 months then once per day. This regimen ensures a more rapid response and it is much easier to be compliant with a once per day regimen. The use of 5% Rogaine carries a greater risk of the growth of facial hair.
On the other hand, finasteride (Propecia or Proscar) is specifically designed to address male pattern baldness. It is not prescribed for women.
Studies continue into other potential treatments. One area of interest is a product called, Latisse. It has been approved for lengthening and thickening eyelashes and some have experienced success using Latisse for hair growth generally.
One thing to keep in mind is that eyelashes and scalp hair have different compositions.
Many continue to discuss the use of Retin-A to aid hair growth and offset hair loss. It is a combination of minoxidil-based shampoos and treatments, as well as a Rogaine solution that helps hair follicles absorb the minoxidil. Retin-A also has ingredients that prevent sebum block, which is theorized as one of the causes of baldness. Studies have indicated Retin-A could slightly improve the performance of minoxidil in aiding hair growth in people with male pattern baldness.
Also, studies into the use of stem cells to regrow hair are underway, but those are still several years from testing the techniques on human subjects.
The best results can be achieved with the surgical treatment in the appropriate patients. Hair restoration surgery employs the use of ultra-refined follicular unit transplantation. The follicular unit transplantation (FUT) can be used to maximize the density in strategic areas to facilitate hair styling options. The FUT can also restore the hairline in those women with male pattern recessions.