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Hair Loss: It’s Not Just a Men’s Health Issue
As many as half of all women are affected by hair loss at some time in their lives.
Lisa Ishii, M.D., a Johns Hopkins hair restoration expert, answers questions she frequently hears from women experiencing hair loss.
Q: Why am I losing my hair?
A: There are several factors that may cause you to lose your hair. Women, most commonly, begin losing hair as a part of the normal aging process, but for others, it can be caused by hormone changes, medications taken for other purposes or severe, extreme stress.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, talk to your primary care provider. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any extreme stress you’re experiencing, such as death of a loved one, and medications you’re taking.
Q: How does hair loss differ between men and women?
A: We lose hair for a number of reasons, but women go through unique hormone changes that contribute to specific types of female hair loss. For example, you may experience hair loss after going through pregnancy or if you have polycystic ovary syndrome.
Hair loss patterns also vary between men and women. Men tend see hair loss start at the temples, the hairline in an M shape and in the crown area (the “bald spot”). As a woman, you may see hair thinning at the top of your head while your hairline remains intact, or you might notice a Christmas tree shape forming as the part of your hair becomes wider, a common symptom in female pattern hair loss.
Q: When should I talk to my doctor about hair loss?
A: If you’re concerned about changes in your hair, there’s never a bad time to talk to your doctor.
If you experience a sudden onset of hair loss, it’s important to talk to your doctor to identify the root cause. You should also see your provider if there’s a noticeable change in the density of your hair or if your hair is falling out in clumps.
Q: Is there anything I can do at home to reduce hair loss and regrow hair?
A: For the most common type of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, I recommend hair treatments containing minoxidil, an FDA-approved medication for treatment of hair loss that’s available over the counter.
Q: What are my treatment options for hair loss?
A: Depending on the cause of your hair loss, there are several treatment options available to women. Your doctor may prescribe new medications, such as minoxidil and finasteride, or discuss changing your current medications if she or he suspects they may be causing hair loss.
Hair transplantation is also be a viable option for many women. In this treatment, hair roots from the back and sides of the scalp are moved to the area we are trying to make more hair dense. The procedure takes several hours to complete, depending on the number of hair roots, and can be performed under light sedation or local anesthesia. New hair growth occurs in as little as four months, but multiple sessions may be required to achieve the desired effect.