Font Size
A
A
A
...
7
...

Hair Loss (cont.)

Treatment Overview

Some people choose to treat hair loss with medicines or surgery, such as hair transplant surgery. Others choose to wear hairpieces (wigs or toupees) or use different methods of hair styling (dyeing or combing). The approach you use depends on the cause of your hair loss. Some people feel they need treatment, while others are not as concerned about thinning hair or baldness.

If a disease, medicine, or stress is the cause, then treating the disease, changing medicines, or eliminating or learning to manage the stress may stop the hair loss.

Treatment for hair loss may help you feel better about how you look, although the trade-off might be that it affects your health. Some medicines may have harmful side effects, and surgery may carry certain risks.

Inherited hair loss

Treatment for inherited hair loss aims to prevent hair loss, promote hair growth, and cover bald areas of the scalp. But treatment is not successful for everyone, and you should not expect to regrow a full head of hair.

Medicines include:

  • Minoxidil. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is available without a prescription and is sprayed on and/or rubbed into the scalp twice a day.
  • Finasteride. Finasteride (Propecia) is available by prescription and is taken once daily in pill form. Finasteride has not been proved effective in women and is not approved for women by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).2 Women who are or may become pregnant should not take or handle crushed or broken tablets, because finasteride can cause birth defects.
Click here to view a Decision Point.Hair Loss: Should I Take Medicine to Regrow Hair?

Surgery includes:

  • Hair transplant surgery. During this surgery, your doctor will move small grafts (pieces of skin with hair folliclesClick here to see an illustration.) from areas of your scalp with full hair to areas of your scalp that are bald or thinning. The grafts may include single hairs or up to 30 hairs in one graft. This is the most common type of surgery used to treat hair loss.
  • Scalp reduction. Scalp reduction involves removing large areas of bald scalp from the head. Sections of the scalp with growing hair are then stretched and sewn together to fill in the bald areas.
  • Scalp flaps. Scalp flaps involve moving a large section of scalp containing hair from the side and back of the scalp to a bald area. One side of the flap remains attached to the scalp as the section of scalp with hair is moved to cover a bald area. The complication rate of this procedure is higher than other procedures because of bleeding, scarring, and infection after surgery.

Cosmetic approaches to hair loss include:

  • Wearing hairpieces. Hairpieces are made from human or synthetic hair that is implanted into a nylon netting. Hairpieces may be attached to the scalp with glue, metal clips, or tape. Hair weaving, which involves sewing or braiding pieces of long hair into existing hair, is not recommended because it may cause permanent hair loss.
  • Using certain hair care products and styling techniques. Hair care products or perms may make hair appear thicker. Dyes may be used to color the scalp. But continual use of perms or dyes may result in more hair loss.

Treatment for other causes of hair loss

Hair loss can be caused by diseases, medicines or medical treatments, recent surgery, high fevers, emotional stress, lack of protein or iron, and hair care, such as using dyes. Often, treating the cause stops the hair loss, and hair grows back. In some cases, other treatment is needed.

Hair loss caused by cancer treatment requires special care: use mild shampoos and do not use a hair dryer.

Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles, where hair growth begins. Because hair usually grows back within a year, you may decide not to have treatment. Understanding the come-and-go nature of hair loss with this condition can help you make the best treatment decision. Children and teens may need counseling to help them adjust to the hair loss.

Medicine used for alopecia areata includes:

  • Corticosteroids injected into the scalp. The corticosteroid is injected many times about 1 cm (0.4 in.) apart every 4 to 6 weeks. This is the most common treatment in adults and is best used for treating patchy hair loss. Limited research reports that hair grows back at the site of injection in some people.3
  • Corticosteroid ointments or creams you put on the scalp. There is little evidence that they cause hair growth when used alone.3 Corticosteroids may be used along with injected steroids or with other medicines such as minoxidil (Rogaine).
  • Corticosteroids you take by mouth (oral). Although this results in hair growth, it is rarely used because of the side effects of oral corticosteroids.
  • Contact immunotherapy, which may be the most effective treatment for severe alopecia areata.3 A common medicine used is diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP), which is "painted" on the scalp once a week at increasing strengths. The DPCP irritates the skin, making it itchy and scaly. This treatment is not widely available.
  • Psoralen with ultraviolet A light (PUVA) therapy. For PUVA, a medicine called a psoralen is used to make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Then the skin is exposed to UVA light.

What to think about

How successful your treatment is depends on your expectations and the cause of hair loss. Treatment for hair loss caused by an illness, medicine, or damage to the hair usually is more successful than treatment for inherited hair loss.

Considerations about inherited hair loss include:

  • The cost. Medicine or surgery to treat hair loss can be expensive and often is not covered by insurance.
  • Length of treatment. Medicines must be taken continuously, or the regrown or thickened hair will fall out. Surgery can be lengthy, and in most cases you will need several surgeries to achieve the coverage you want.
  • Side effects. Long-term effects of some hair loss medicines are not known.
  • Type of treatment. Medicines that must be taken continuously can be expensive and can increase the chance of side effects. Surgery, which may be a more permanent solution, is also expensive. In addition, surgery involves risks and the chance that not all hair follicles will remain healthy.

Women with inherited hair loss who wish to take birth control pills should use a pill type that does not add to hair loss, such as a norgestimate or ethynodiol diacetate.4

Next Page:
...
7
...

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.






Medical Dictionary