Gone Yesterday, Hair Today:
New Options for Hair Loss
Dr. Marcelo Hochman
When most of us think about hair loss, we picture a middle-aged man with a shiny bald head. But actually, hair loss does not discriminate; it can occur at any age and to anyone, male or female. Hair grows almost everywhere on human skin, but certain factors can disrupt its growth on the head and face. These factors, according to Dr. Marcelo Hochman of The Hair Loss Treatment Center in Charleston, South Carolina, vary from genetics to hormones and even medications and trauma. Most often, however, genetic predisposition is the culprit.
“The quality of the hair gets thinner, as does the number of hairs,” Dr. Hochman confirmed. “Men have the more pronounced pattern, whereas women have more patchiness or generalized thinning.”
Because hair loss can happen at any age – from the 20s on up – and because men and women have different causes and concerns, the range of options for hair loss treatment continues to evolve and be customized for the patient. For example, if a 25-year-old female comes into Dr. Hochman's office in search of help, the doctor will assess her situation as a young female. Often, younger patients must be dealt with more conservatively, since it's probable that hair will continue to be lost.
“With younger patients, hair loss is ongoing, unlike for the 50-something-year-old who is nearly at hairline maturity,” Dr. Hochman explained.
The newest and most revolutionary option for treating hair loss, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is a technique known as a FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) transplant. In the past, hair transplants were done by dividing the scalp into strips. It was much more noticeable, according to Dr. Hochman, since the technique was performed on bigger areas of the scalp.
“The strip technique takes a strip of scalp which needs to be closed,” he said. “The larger the strip, the harder to close the space, so it's not the preferred technique now.”
The FUE technique involves “harvesting” the follicular unit in an area that Dr. Hochman called “genetically protected.” This term refers to the area around the back of a person's head and near the temples – in other words, the “fringe” we think of on a balding man. The medical community has figured out how to take the healthy follicles from these protected areas and move them to other parts of the scalp. Then, once the hair growth cycle moves forward, a new hair grows from the follicle.
“As long as the donor site has the density, we can harvest from it,” Dr. Hochman pointed out. “The new hair that grows from the replaced follicle won't fall out, since the follicle contains protected genetic information.”
Aside from FUE transplants, other options for hair loss include PRR, or Platelet Rich Plasma, which uses the patient's own blood nutrients to stimulate growth; and Light Therapy, which uses LED bulbs to increase blood flow to the scalp. Both of these treatments can be done on their own in certain cases, or, more typically, to maximize results of the FUE transplant.
“We can perform PRP and Light Therapy by themselves, but there is no guarantee how much hair will grow without the transplant, ” Dr. Hochman explained, indicating that FUE is a more reliable procedure for patients with significant loss.
Other parts of the face such as sparse eyebrows or patchy beards can benefit from the FUE transplants as well. Dr. Hochman pointed out that the human body will accept hair from anywhere, as long as it is from the patient's own body.
“We can do the same technique to restore eyebrows or to remedy patchy facial hair growth on men,” he remarked. “It's just a matter of transferring the hair to wherever it is needed.”
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