Don't Let Hair Loss Tangle You Up: Dermatologists Can Identify Common Hair Disorders and Offer Solutions

Monday, February 4, 2008 General News
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SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 3 Noticing a few extra hairs in yourcomb lately? Is your new hairstyle a result of trying to conceal areas ofthinning hair rather than a fashion choice? Are you paying more attention tothe multitude of advertisements promoting hair growth? If you answered yes toany of these questions, you might be one of the millions of peopleexperiencing some form of hair loss. But to whom should you turn for help?The key to managing the condition is to consult a dermatologist, a physiciantrained in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hair loss.

Speaking today at the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Academy ofDermatology, dermatologist Amy J. McMichael, MD, FAAD, associate professor ofdermatology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.,discussed the most common forms of hair loss, current treatment options andpossible futuristic therapies.

"For both men and women, hair loss can be devastating and adversely affectone's overall quality of life," said Dr. McMichael. "As with most medicalconditions, the key to controlling the hair loss cycle is to seek treatmentearly. The problem is that most people tend to ignore the first signs of hairloss or delay treatment, hoping that their hair will regrow on its own. Sincethere are many types and causes of hair loss, it is vital that patients seek aproper evaluation by a dermatologist at the first sign of a problem."

Androgenetic Alopecia (Pattern Hair Loss)

The most common form of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia (commonlyreferred to as male- or female-pattern hair loss) is a hereditary conditionthat affects men and women. In male-pattern hair loss, a receding hairline iscommon, as well as hair loss on top of the scalp. Women, on the other hand,typically maintain their frontal hairline but tend to have visible thinningover the front and top of the scalp. However, occasionally a man willexperience female-pattern hair loss and a woman will show signs ofmale-pattern hair loss for reasons unknown to researchers.

A significant amount of research in male-pattern hair loss has identifiedthe enzyme that can be blocked to stop the production of dihydrotestosterone(DHT), which is a byproduct of the male hormone testosterone that is linked tobaldness in men. This research has led to the development of finasteride, theFDA-approved medication for treating male-pattern hair loss.

While the cause of female-pattern hair loss is not as clearly understoodas male-pattern hair loss, Dr. McMichael discussed several treatment optionsthat work well for many women. Currently, minoxidil 2 percent is the onlyFDA- approved treatment for female-pattern hair loss. Available over thecounter in 2 percent and 5 percent solutions, minoxidil must be appliedtopically and works on hair follicles to reverse the shrinking process andstimulate new growth on the top of the scalp. Minoxidil also is FDA-approvedfor use by men.

"There are some cases where dermatologists will use other treatmentsoff-label to treat hair loss in women, such as the anti-androgensspironolactone and flutamide that work by blocking the male hormonetestosterone at the cellular level of the hair follicle," said Dr. McMichael."Even higher doses of finasteride have been used in women to regrow hair. Butit is important that women -- and especially younger women -- see theirdermatologist for hair loss, especially if other symptoms such as acne orabnormal menstrual cycles also are present. In some cases, hair loss alongwith these other symptoms may indicate a more serious medical condition, suchas a tumor or polycystic ovary disease."

Another proven technique for men and women looking to restore their hairis hair transplantation. Dr. McMichael noted that the technology involved inthis surgical procedure has improved significantly over the years, with tinyhair grafts now being implanted thro

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