Sam Bauman: Don’t panic when you start losing your hair
Following up from last week, heredity plays a major role in hair loss. To see what you face, look at your parents. If Dad is bald that’s a solid clue; if Mom is losing hair to the hairbrush, that’s another harbinger. Together they suggest hair loss ahead.
All may not be lost.
There are treatments to help you regain some of those parted strands or at least minimize loss. But if you suffer from sudden, patchy hair loss, consult your doctor. He or she will make tests to see if you have a medical condition like thyroid or perhaps lupus that’s to blame. Some drugs used treat cancer, gout, depression, or arthritis, high blood pressure or heart problems have side effects on hair.
Hair grows in cycles, from growing to resting and regressions, lasting varying periods. During the growth periods hair grows about a half-inch a month. Eventually, the growth period becomes so short the new hair fails to reach the outer layer of the scalp.
Male hair loss can begin as early as the teens or 20s, but becomes more noticeable in the mid years and later. For men hair loss is usually at the hairline, at the temples and balding at the top the head.
It is reported that half of all men will suffer some androgenic alopecia (hair loss) by hitting 50. Hair loss tends to run in families. Androgens (hormones) play a role in male development drive the follicle in men.
Women don’t suffer hair loss as men do. Estimates are that 20 to 30 percent of women undergo hair loss. But their psycho impact of hair loss is more profound. Women really don’t expect to lose hair and they face a loss of self-esteem. While it is socially acceptable for men to shave their heads, it doesn’t work for women.
Although androgenic alopecia can’t be cured, various treatments work for both sexes. Results vary and may result in hair growth or not.
Some options: Medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine), an over-the-counter medication that is OK for both men and women. It’s usually the first choice for both sexes. It is a foam that users rub into the scalp daily. Some hair growth is common or a slower loss of hair ensues. During the first month, some existing hair may fall out as the hair follicles are stimulated to new growth. Based on tests, it is recommended that it be used for a year before checking the results. Once the treatment is stopped, any regrowth is lost.
Finasteride (Propecia) is a daily prescription pill for treating male hair loss. As above, full effects may take a year. It works by influencing the androgens, stopping the switch of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that can shrink hair follicles. However, this type of hormone activity tends to slow with age so it may not work for men over 60.
Dutasteride (Avodart) is a prescription pill that works like Finasteride. Although it is FDA approved to treat enlarged prostate, doctors may use it for hair loss.
For women with high androgen levels, prescriptions of high androgen of anti-androgen medications such as spironolactone may be helpful.
Hair transplant surgery of hair may help those who have plenty of hair elsewhere on their heads that can be translated to sparse areas. During a transplant session, a cosmetic surgeon harvests tiny patches of skin, each containing one to several hairs to go on back or side on the scalp. These patches are implanted follicle by follicle into bald sections. The new patches will stay during the growth period, but hereditary hair loss progresses over time so one can expect some hair loss. Some doctors suggest using minoxidil after a transplant to reduce loss.
Laser therapy has won FDA approval. It’s a low-level device for treatment of hereditary hair loss. The device looks like a comb or brush and is glided over the head several times a week. A few small studies have shown it increases hair density but more studies are needed.
Hair volumizing products can help with styling techniques to improve hair volume. Check with your hair stylist for suggestions.
Wigs and hairpieces can also lessen the effects of hair loss. But that is another area.
When my eye doc asked me to close my eyes, I replied, “Can’t do that.” But added, “I can close my eyelids. That what you meant?”
Of course, we can’t close our eyeballs. Not physically possible. But close the eyelid? Sure.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.