HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

Shedding isn’t reserved just for pets; when suffering from hair loss, it can be a part of your everyday life. Alopecia, or hair loss, is surprisingly common and affects both sexes, albeit from different causes.

Hair loss can be divided broadly into two forms, non-scarring and scarring, and treatments depend on the underlying condition.

NON-SCARRING ALOPECIA

The most common form of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, which often runs in families and is seen in both men and women. Like other non-scarring alopecias, the machinery for making hair follicles is not destroyed, and reversal of the hair loss can be seen with early diagnosis and proper treatment. We use a combination of both topical minoxidil and oral medications like finasteride, Nutrafol, and even injections of platelet rich plasma (PRP). The latter involves taking blood from the patient, spinning it down, and then injecting the growth factor-rich PRP into the scalp to stimulate hair growth. The injections are done thrice monthly, and maintenance sessions are performed every six months.

Alopecia areata is also non-scarring and is an autoimmune condition where the body’s inflammatory cells called lymphocytes surround hair follicles in certain areas and cause the hairs to fall out, sometimes literally overnight. It has an unpredictable course and may resolve on its own or may require a combination of topical and systemic medications

Telogen effluvium is a global shedding event that often occurs about two to three months after a big physical or emotional stressor like pregnancy, weight loss, surgery, or from medications or medical conditions such as low iron stores or thyroid abnormalities. If a trigger is not readily identified, blood work may be necessary to pinpoint the source of the problem. Fungal infections or syphilis can also cause non-scarring hair loss.

SCARRING ALOPECIA

In contrast to non-scarring alopecias, scarring alopecias destroy the hair follicle and cause a scar to form. The goal of treatment is to prevent worsening of the disease, and regrowth usually does not occur. In my practice, the most common types result from hair care practices such as chemical relaxing and hot combs (flat irons) for curly hair or tight braids or cornrows, which put excessive tension on the hair and hair follicles. Treatment may involve steroid injections and medications, but preservation of the hair follicles and overall success require a transition to a more natural hair style. Fortunately, these are now more widely accepted. Other causes include tumors or inflammatory conditions such as lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, and lupus.

The most important step in treatment of any form of hair loss is a proper dermatological evaluation and diagnosis, which will often involve a skin biopsy. This is done in the office using a small amount of numbing medicine and is closed with a stitch. If you are suffering from hair loss, you are not alone, and treatment may help. We have good rates of success with many forms of hair loss, and most are covered by health insurance. Call (229) 469-4383 and schedule your consultation today!

In contrast to non-scarring alopecias, scarring alopecias destroy the hair follicle and cause a scar to form. The goal of treatment is to prevent worsening of the disease, and regrowth usually does not occur. In my practice, the most common types result from hair care practices such as chemical relaxing and hot combs (flat irons) for curly hair or tight braids or cornrows, which put excessive tension on the hair and hair follicles. Treatment may involve steroid injections and medications, but preservation of the hair follicles and overall success require a transition to a more natural hair style. Fortunately, these are now more widely accepted. Other causes include tumors or inflammatory conditions such as lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, and lupus.

The most important step in treatment of any form of hair loss is a proper dermatological evaluation and diagnosis, which will often involve a skin biopsy. This is done in the office using a small amount of numbing medicine and is closed with a stitch. If you are suffering from hair loss, you are not alone, and treatment may help. We have good rates of success with many forms of hair loss, and most are covered by health insurance. Call (229) 469-4383 and schedule your consultation today!


Written by: Betsy Perry Backe, MD, FAAD

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