This common and sometimes stressful condition may result from heredity, medications or medical conditions. Treatment may reverse or slow hair loss.
Hair loss (alopecia) can affect just your scalp or your entire body, and it can be temporary or permanent. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or a normal part of aging. Anyone can lose hair on their head, but it's more common in men.
Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Some people prefer to let their hair loss run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. And still others choose one of the treatments available to prevent further hair loss or restore growth.
Before pursuing hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.
Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on what's causing it. It can come on suddenly or gradually and affect just your scalp or your whole body.
Signs and symptoms of hair loss may include:
See your doctor if you are distressed by persistent hair loss in you or your child and want to pursue treatment. For women who are experiencing a receding hairline (frontal fibrosing alopecia), talk with your doctor about early treatment to avoid significant permanent baldness.
Also talk to your doctor if you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your or your child's hair. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
People typically lose 50 to 100 hairs a day. This usually isn't noticeable because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when new hair doesn't replace the hair that has fallen out.
Hair loss is typically related to one or more of the following factors:
A number of factors can increase your risk of hair loss, including:
Most baldness is caused by genetics (male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness). This type of hair loss is not preventable.
These tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and ask about your diet, your hair care routine, and your medical and family history. You might also have tests, such as the following:
Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. You might be able to reverse hair loss, or at least slow it. With some conditions, such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), hair may regrow without treatment within a year. Treatments for hair loss include medications and surgery.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease will be necessary. If a certain medication is causing the hair loss, your doctor may advise you to stop using it for a few months.
Medications are available to treat pattern (hereditary) baldness. The most common options include:
Minoxidil (Rogaine). Over-the-counter (nonprescription) minoxidil comes in liquid, foam and shampoo forms. To be most effective, apply the product to the scalp skin once daily for women and twice daily for men. Many people prefer the foam applied when the hair is wet.
Products with minoxidil help many people regrow their hair or slow the rate of hair loss or both. It'll take at least six months of treatment to prevent further hair loss and to start hair regrowth. It may take a few more months to tell whether the treatment is working for you. If it is helping, you'll need to continue using the medicine indefinitely to retain the benefits.
Possible side effects include scalp irritation and unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands.
Finasteride (Propecia). This is a prescription drug for men. You take it daily as a pill. Many men taking finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show new hair growth. It may take a few months to tell whether it's working for you. You'll need to keep taking it to retain any benefits. Finasteride may not work as well for men over 60.
Rare side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Women who are or may be pregnant need to avoid touching crushed or broken tablets.
In the most common type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. Hair transplant, or restoration surgery, can make the most of the hair you have left.
During a hair transplant procedure, a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon removes hair from a part of the head that has hair and transplants it to a bald spot. Each patch of hair has one to several hairs (micrografts and minigrafts). Sometimes a larger strip of skin containing multiple hair groupings is taken. This procedure doesn't require hospitalization, but it is painful so you'll be given a sedation medicine to ease any discomfort. Possible risks include bleeding, bruising, swelling and infection. You may need more than one surgery to get the effect you want. Hereditary hair loss will eventually progress despite surgery.
Surgical procedures to treat baldness are not usually covered by insurance.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a low-level laser device as a treatment for hereditary hair loss in men and women. A few small studies have shown that it improves hair density. More studies are needed to show long-term effects.
You might want to try various hair care methods to find one that makes you feel better about how you look. For example, use styling products that add volume, color your hair, choose a hairstyle that makes a widening part less noticeable. Use wigs or extensions, or shave your head. Talk with a hair stylist for ideas. These approaches can be used to address permanent or temporary hair loss.
If your hair loss is due to a medical condition, the cost of a wig might be covered by insurance.
You're likely to first bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of skin problems (dermatologist).
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For hair loss, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
May 4th, 2021