What is Alopecia?
As we all know, baldness or hair loss is generally known as Alopecia. It is a condition that affects both men and women in various forms. Medical experts say that the condition is sometimes a result of genetics. However, it can also be attributed to problems with the immune system which affects a health scalp, causing hair to fall out. While alopecia is recognised as a term that refers to hair loss on top of one’s head, it can also affect other areas of the body including the face, arms and legs.
Alopecia may appear in a number of ways. It may begin by shedding hair slowly over time or can start to fall out in patches or chunks. It can affect certain concentrated areas, or it can spread to cover an entire area.
Proper diagnosis of alopecia is essential. Other ailments such as inflammation, hair follicle loss and fibrosis can mimick the symptoms of alopecia. However, because they are not alopecia in the strict sense, misdiagnosis and mistreatment can have adverse results to the sufferer. That is why it is important to seek proper medical advice in the diagnosis and treatment of alopecia.
It can be a difficult process for one to lose their hair. Often, people are embarrassed to obtain formal medical diagnosis. This is especially true for those sufferers where hair fall out in patches or clumps.
Proper medical treatment should be sought in order to get to the root of the problem. A dermatologist or general practitioner is usually able to be the best professional to see. In many cases a medical device can be used to perform a trichoscopy, which is a process used to determine the cause of alopecia. A trichoscopy can help determine hair loss is associated with genetics or autoimmune issues.
Male and Female Alopecia
The Common Causes For Male Alopecia
There are several causes that have been known to cause hair loss in men. One of the main issues is a lack of hormones, or a drop in glandular secretions. For example, men over the age of 30 will lose testosterone as they age. This can directly affect hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Other root causes could be in regards to steroid use, anemia, vitamin A deficiency, thyroid problems, and allergic reactions to shampoos, dyes, and other stimulus. Aside from these common causes, men could also have a hereditary link to the issue overall.
Common Causes For Female Alopecia
Women are less likely to develop alopecia today. The most common cause of this issue in women is glandular dysfunction and a slowdown in hormonal release. Research indicates that women that are going through menopause or have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism are at greater risk for thinning hair, and loss. Other common causes can be linked to allergic reactions to certain chemicals, dyes, straighteners, and additives found in shampoos, conditioners, and beauty supplies that may be purchased over the counter. As with male symptoms, the early signs start with thinning hair in spots across the scalp, and hair loss in patches.
Focusing On Treatments
As for alopecia treatments that can be given to men and women, they are similar. Once this dermal issue has been diagnosed, a doctor can prescribe medications. While there are a few over the counter treatments, serious cases of this issue will require prescriptions. The most common treatments include topical gels, and creams that help invigorate the hair follicles, and scalp. Injections may be given in other instances. In the case of hereditary hair loss, there may be no cure for the issue.
Over the counter options most commonly used are topical creams, including options that have minoxidil. This has been clinically proven to regrow hair in a wide variety of individuals. Name brands such as “Rogaine”, have been popularized for years through heavy marketing, but the main ingredient is in fact minoxidil.
It can be frustrating to get this diagnosis, but it is not always the end of the line. In many cases alopecia can be reversed through medical care. While not every case can be reversed, however, a grand number of cases have been cured through modern techniques. The key is to get a diagnosis as soon as the early onset symptoms appear, in order to start treatment as soon as possible.
Over The Counter Options
At the first sign of thinning hair, or hair loss in general, individuals may look to products that are sold over the counter. Most common is a product known for their marketing and it’s “Rogaine”. The main ingredient in this solution is minoxidil. This has been clinically proven to regrow hair. While it can help, it is not 100% effective, which can be frustrating for some individuals. This is a topical solution that is applied directly to the scalp for several weeks. In many cases, it can regrow and strengthen existing hair follicles. There are also several shampoos and conditioners that promise thicker hair, but without minoixidil in them, they may not provide regrowth.
UV Light Therapy
Dermatologists may be able to begin treatment for individuals that do not see regrowth with over the counter solutions. One of the most common treatments is UV light integration. UV light is cast through specialized equipment over the affected areas in hopes of regenerating cellular growth. This can help follicle mobility at the dermal level, giving hope for those that are dealing with symptoms related to alopecia.
PRP Injections at the sight of hair loss can be administered. There are several medications that can be delivered directly to the scalp and have been shown to help regrow hair. This directly applies medication to the roots of follicles, and can be somewhat uncomfortable to receive. Since the medication is going directly into the dermis, chances of repair are much higher.
In the case that alopecia is the direct result of hormone dysfunction or loss, a doctor can prescribe hormone replacement therapy. Most commonly low-T (testosterone) in middle age is to blame for male pattern baldness. A dose of testosterone administered through gels, patches, or injections can help revitalize energy levels and even help with growing hair. There are some side effects to this, but a doctor can go over the specifics of what may occur as a result of therapy.
The aforementioned treatments are the most common that you will find for alopecia. While there are no 100% cures to this, there are several that have been shown to help. The problem with the effectiveness of treatment is in relationship to the root causes. Since there is no “one” cause, different methods need to be applied moving forward to help reverse the trend of hair loss.
Hair Transplant Surgery
Hair loss can cause a lot of stress for men and women alike. When follicles start receding and hair goes missing, there are few options that work long term. While some people seek out topical treatments, there are some that will fail overall. When all other options have been exhausted, many may turn to surgical procedures to get a fuller head of hair.
What is Hair Transplant Surgery?
Simply put, hair transplant surgery is a procedure that involves transplanting hair from one area and placing it into another – usually the scalp if that’s where the Alopecia has occurred. Hair transplants surgery dates back as early as the 1950s. However, modern advancement in . The process requires a doctor to numb the scalp, and then utilizes one of two different types of surgical processes.
Follicular Unit Transfer (FUT)
This procedure involves a surgeon that will cut strips of skin from other parts of the body, usually the back of the head where hair may still grow and then sew it on areas that have hair loss. Sewn carefully, any losses and sutures are hidden by the hair that borders the replacement. When completed, thousands of grafts with hair are placed in areas where hair has receded or completely vanished. The quality depends on the source of the skin strips, and location that they were taken from. This effectively transfers strips of skin (that contain good hair follicles) from one area of the head and apply it to the scalp region where the hair loss has occurred.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
This form of surgical procedure involves surgeons removing follicles one by one to create new grafts. This takes more time and precision, but often results in a great result. These grafts are then placed along areas where hair is missing through small holes that are created in the scalp. This grafting technique is more labor intensive, as individual follicles are taken as transplants than placed in other areas, resulting in up to 8 hours of transplantation. Often, this may take several procedures to get a full, thicker set of hair.
Robotic Hair Transplant
Thanks to technology, there is another way to perform Follicular Unit Extraction – by using a robot. The robotic transplant procedure, aptly called Robotic Hair Transplant, is an incredible example of technological advancement in the medical industry. This advancement allows for faster harvesting and even more precise follicle extraction and transplantation. Although this surgery comes at a premium no one can deny that the results are reportedly excellent. The benefits of this option ranges from minimizing human error to more accurate and even placement of hair across the scalp.
Before you decide on which hair transplant procedure is for you, be sure to consult with a doctor first. Remember, a doctor can determine the root cause of hair loss and what options are suited to your particular circumstances.
The Recovery Cycle of Hair Transplant Surgery
After surgery, the scalp you may experience some discomfort. Pain medication will be administered as a result, and care needs to be taken to cover the scalp for some time. Within 5 days after the operation the scalp should begin to heal. Minoxidil may also be prescribed as a secondary treatment to help with the improvement of growth that could come as a result of hair transplant surgery. Of course there is a chance that some of the donor hair will falls out. You should speak to your doctor about success rates and what is the likely percentage of transplanted hair that you are likely to retain after your surgery.
Support Resources for Sufferers of Alopecia
If you require support for Alopecia, contact the Australian Alopecia Areta Foundation click here.
For more Australian Government assistance click here.