Case Studies

Halt Hair Loss

| July/August 2005

Hair today, gone tomorrow,” said Frank, a patient of mine. Frank had a good sense of humor and was hilarious describing his many ways of hiding the fact that he was going bald. At first, he tried the “comb over,” combing his hair over the receding corners of his hairline. Then he wore a baseball cap, even indoors, for several years. He tried various creams from the drugstore, but nothing really helped.

Although Frank’s story is a fairly typical one for many men, I also have had a number of female patients suffering from hair loss. Up to one-fifth of U.S. women experience female pattern baldness. This hair loss is directly associated with hereditary factors and changing hormone levels, especially androgens, which means that noticeable hair loss often occurs at a faster rate during or after menopause and during pregnancy.

Hair loss in women typically occurs over the entire head, not just at the hairline or on the crown, as with men. By the time a woman really begins to notice a difference in thickness, she might have already lost up to one-third of her hair.

Although hair loss is definitely associated with genetic disposition, a number of environmental causes, lifestyle factors and health issues can contribute strongly to the situation. Understanding these factors and taking steps to reduce their impact, while improving overall health — especially hair and scalp health — can go a long way toward having a healthy head of hair into old age.

The use of hairsprays, harsh shampoos, coloring agents and other commercial hair products can lead to allergic reactions, irritation and inflammation, processes that also can contribute to hair loss.

Do Hair Regrowth Drugs Work?

When I first talked with Frank, he mentioned his experience with minoxidil (Rogaine), which is the only approved drug for hair loss in men and women. Minoxidil can slow hair loss and may help regrow hair in about 20 to 25 percent of users, but side effects include itching, irritation and, sometimes, unwanted hair growth in areas adjacent to the treatment. The main problem with drug treatment is that hair regrowth stops after the treatment is discontinued, and hair loss can continue. Rogaine didn’t work for Frank at all, even after he used the maximum dose.

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