Why are you losing hair?
Hair loss, or alopecia, and thinning hair isn’t simply an issue in men, it is actually quite common in women. Recent statistics report that 40% of the people in the United States suffering from hair loss and thinning hair are women and 60% are men. It is true that more men experience hair loss and thinning hair than women, but did you know that the percentage of men and women experiencing hair loss and thinning hair increases with age? According to the American Hair Loss Association, approximately 67% of men in America will experience noticeable hair loss and by age 35, and 85% of men will have significant hair loss by the age of 50. The percentage of women reporting noticeable hair loss doubles between menopause (40% of women are affected) and 65 years old (80% of women are affected).
Hair loss can impact all areas of a person’s life including:
- interpersonal relationships
- career decisions
- symptoms of depression
- decreased confidence
- low self-esteem
- withdrawing from activities that once brought them joy
Normal Hair Follicle Growth:
It may surprise you to know that normal, healthy hair growth happens in three different stages and if there is a disruption in any of the three phases, it can lead to hair loss and thinning hair. The three phases of hair follicle growth are the growth phase (anagen phase), the regression phase (catagen phase), and the resting phase (telogen phase). A normal adult head has about 80-90% of hair follicles in the growth phase and there is a balance of hair naturally falling out and new hair growth. If the growth phase is reduced or interrupted, it can lead to thinning hair.
When evaluating hair growth, the quantity of hair is assessed in addition to the thickness of the hair shaft of new hair growth. Generally, when new hair growth occurs, the thickness of the new hair is consistent with minimal variation in thickness. In people with alopecia, there may be a large variation in the thickness of the new hair growth and there is a greater percentage of hair falling out compared to new hair growth.
What Causes Hair Loss?
There is a long list of health conditions, medications, and nutritional deficiencies that have been shown to contribute to and cause hair loss by altering the normal stages of hair growth. Some of the most common causes of hair loss and thinning hair include:
- hormonal imbalances (testosterone, etc.)
- thyroid disease
- various forms of hormonal birth control
- genetic predisposition or family history of hair loss
- increased stress levels
- iron deficiency anemia
- protein deficiency/malnutrition
- severe infection or illness
- sudden weight loss
Not only can some medical conditions contribute to hair loss, certain medications can also play a role in thinning hair such as:
- gout medication
- blood thinners
- high blood pressure medication (Beta blockers, Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors)
- acne medication
- anti-seizure/anticonvulsant medications
It is important to identify underlying causes that contribute to hair loss in order to slow the progression and implement specific interventions to manage the condition. A medical professional can perform a detailed history and physical exam and draw blood to determine the most likely causes for hair loss and thinning hair. Since healthy hair growth can be affected by so many different factors, it is essential to have a thorough workup and assessment completed.
Prescription and Surgical Treatment Options:
Due to the widespread nature of alopecia, there are many different treatments available and many of them come with undesirable side-effects and can be very expensive. Oral medications are frequently prescribed to manage hair loss and patient compliance can limit the effectiveness of these medications. Some patients are not consistent with taking the oral medications because they may lead to decreased libido and other sexual side effects such as impotence. One commonly used oral medication used for alopecia is not FDA approved for women to take due to the risk of causing birth defects.
There are topical agents that can be applied directly to the area(s) of hair loss to thicken hair increase the length of the hair growth phase. There are limitations in the effectiveness of the topical agents due to many requiring twice daily applications for results. These agents have been shown to be more effective in certain areas of the head and demonstrate poor results in other areas such as the front of the head.
Surgical interventions including hair transplantation are available, but they are traditionally reserved for people who have not had success with other forms of treatment. Hair transplantation is a very expensive and invasive procedure that requires the patient to have hair removed from other areas of his/her scalp and implanted into areas without hair. The success of this procedure is limited to the quality and availability of the patient’s hair supply. As with any surgery, there can be complications including bleeding, infection, scarring, pain, numbness, and/or swelling around the procedure site(s).
The Natural Way to Manage Hair Loss:
There is another option to manage hair loss naturally and allowing the body to heal itself called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). PRP has been used for decades to treat musculoskeletal conditions involving joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. It has also been used in wound healing, treating burns, oral and maxillofacial surgery, cardiovascular surgery, cosmetic surgeries, soft tissue reconstruction, sexual rejuvenation, dermatologic procedures, and in veterinary medicine.
Platelets are blood cells that form a clot to stop the bleeding when there is a cut or injury. PRP is obtained by drawing a small amount of a patient’s blood and spinning it in a machine called a centrifuge that separates the whole blood into layers. The bottom layer is the red blood cells, the middle layer is referred to as the “buffy coat” and contains platelets and white blood cells, and the top layer is the plasma. PRP consists of the top layer (plasma) and the buffy coat (platelets and white blood cells) and this is injected into the areas where hair loss or thinning hair is present. PRP also contains high concentrations of growth factors and numerous proteins that stimulate the healing process and facilitate tissue rejuvenation. When PRP is injected into sites with no hair or thinning hair, PRP stimulates hair regrowth by a cascade of events that results in the hair follicle growth phase (anagen phase).
In numerous clinical studies and in clinical practice, PRP has demonstrated high success rates in promoting hair growth in all areas of the scalp in both men and women and provides effective results. This is a safe, non-invasive procedure with proven results and allows patients to avoid harmful side effects of oral and topical medications and unforeseen complications of surgical interventions. There is no risk of an allergic reaction or rejection since it is using the patient’s own blood cells. There is no recovery time as it is non-invasive and patients can drive home after the procedure. Patients typically receive three treatment sessions 4-6 weeks apart depending on the degree of hair loss. Patients may see visible results of new hair growth in the treated areas in 3-6 months following PRP treatment sessions. PRP is an affordable and effective option to improve hair loss and appearance and to restore self-confidence.
To learn more about specific reasons why you or a loved one may be experiencing hair loss and to find out whether or not you may be a good candidate for PRP procedures for hair loss, visit our medical experts at Gentera Center for Regenerative Medicine.