Each year, millions of people (both men and women) discover that they are loosing their hair. But what many people don't realize is that hair loss can be medically treated to either reverse the effects or at least to stall the process.
Shown above (left to right), Rogaine (Minoxidil), Propecia (Finasteride), and Saw Palmetto.
The first step in the treatment of hair loss is to understand its cause. There are several causes including:
Genetics - Male or female pattern hair loss is 98% of hair loss and can be inherited from either the male or female side of the family.
Medical Treatments - There are many types of medication that will cause hair loss, such as anti-depressants, chemotherapy, and the acne treatments.
Diet - Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, lack of B6, B12 or Folic Acid, Zinc can cause hair loss. In addition, crash dieting, low intake of protein can have a similar effect.
Diseases - Some diseases will cause hair loss. For example, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body attack the hair follicles. And telogen effluvium is a condition where hair may fall out in a relatively short period of time due to childbirth, high fever, severe illness and even high stress.
There are basically three solutions to hair loss: medications, surgery, and cosmetic devices.
Medications - There are only 2 FDA approved drugs for hair loss: Minoxidil and Finasteride.
Minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) Increases the weight of hair in the treated area by 30% and increase the number of hairs. However, it can cause an itchy scalp or dandruff. Midoxidil is available over the counter, i.e. without a prescription and is available in a generic form from many large retailers. Minoxidil comes in a liquid solution that is applied to the scalp and rubbed in. Minoxidil is available for both men and women. Used daily, Minoxidil will cost approximately $30/month.
Finasteride (brand name Propecia) was originally a treatment for male prostrate problems. It has shown to be the most effective medical solution: 2/3 of men treated see increase of hair count at the back and top of head. It works by decreases the synthesis of DHT. Side effects includes 1/2% decrease in sex drive, erections problems. For those who experience side effects, they usually go away within a few weeks. Finasteride is a pill that is usually taken once a day. Is only available for men and can be dangerous to pregnant women. A prescription for Propecia will cost about $50 / month.
No studies show combination of medications works better. But many medical professional recommend taking both Rogaine and Propecia at the same time. 80-85% of people who take Rogain or Propecia for at least 8 months will see positive results.
Dutasteride - a new drug that treats used to treat enlarged prostrates in men. Early studies show it is at least as effective as Propecia. It has not yet been approved for hair loss treatment.
Saw Palmetto - is a herbal remedy that may have some effectiveness. It is available at many pharmacies and health food stores.
Hair restoration surgery - There are several types of surgery available, however, the most common is Follicular Unit Grafting. Under this approach, hairs from a healthy area of the scalp are transplanted in 1 to 4 hair units to the balding area. This technique requires only local anesthetics and healing takes only a few days. However, the surgery is expensive and most people will need multiple transplants (as many a 10) in a lifetime. Most physicians recommend taking medications to prevent further hair loss after surgery. The results of this surgery depend heavily upon the surgeon's skills, so it is important to do your homework, get a good referral and see examples of the surgeon's work. Depending on the type of procedure and the size of the area treated, surgery can cost from $2,500 to $12,000 per procedure.
Cosmetic Devices - Hair Pieces / Toupees have come a long way in the last 20 years. Many of them are virtually indistinguishable from real hair. There are basically two choices: synthetic and human hair. Synthetic hair pieces are more expensive (typically $500 - $1500). Human hair pieces are less expensive ($100 to $600)
Laser Combs - Recent studies have shown that laser light does help stimulate hair growth.
How To Choose
Learn about your options. Internet research will get you started, however be forewarned, the FDA only regulates drugs. Any non-drug company can claim their product treats hair loss. This is a popular area for scams.
Talk to a doctor to find out why you are losing your hair. Ask your doctor for advice on choosing the best treatment approach.