Gradual loss of hair with aging is a common phenomenon. It is usually more apparent in men with shorter haircuts but can occur in women as well. The loss may involve the vertex (the top of the head) or the frontal areas just above the forehead on other side of the head. Baldness with aging should be distinguished from male pattern baldness. This is the gradual loss of hair from the forehead back to the vertex, which is the common form of baldness in younger men. Male pattern baldness is inherited.
Other sorts of baldness or hair loss may range from the loss of simple spots of hair (alopecia areata) to total hairlessness (alopecia totalis). Baldness of this sort is not a function of aging, although it may occur in the elderly as well as in the young. There also is hair loss associated with the administration of drugs. Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer is the most common cause. This sort of hairlessness is temporary. Hair growth usually returns after the cessation of the drug treatment.
Hair loss may also be associated directly with some diseases rather than their treatment. Your physician will evaluate you for possible causes for the hair loss.
Important Points in Treatment
The gradual hair loss with aging is thus far not preventable. This hair loss is accelerated by damage to the hair. Harsh treatment of your hair ranging from tight braids or hairdos through chemical treatments to bleach, dye, and curling hair can accelerate natural hair loss.
There are three options for hair loss. One is to ignore it. This is by far the commonest and safest option. One can disguise the hair loss. There are a wide variety of choices; however, most involve hair pieces. Little can be said about this option except one should be a prudent purchaser. Deal with professionals of established reputation. Understand thoroughly what you are purchasing before you contract for the purchase.
The third option involves medical approaches to restoration or regrowth of hair. You should be aware that there are many nonmedical (cosmetic) claims for shampoos, tonics, and other aids that will restore (rejuvenate) hair growth. These generally lack scientific medical evaluation of credibility, and a prospective buyer/user must evaluate the claims carefully before purchase. Current medical approaches to hair restoration or regrowth involve either hair transplantation or drugs to stimulate hair growth.
Hair transplantation is a surgical procedure in which skin containing hair follicles is moved from one part of the body to another. In its new location, the tranplanted hair continues to flourish. A potential user needs to know that this is a cosmetic procedure and usually is not covered by health insurance. Evaluate the costs carefully. The individual transplants are small, and it takes many transplants to restore signifi- cant hair to a bald spot. Evaluate thoroughly the number of sessions that may be necessary.
The drugs currently offered for promotion of hair growth are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). Propecia is useful only in men. It has an effect in young men but has not been useful for the elderly. Rogaine is available for both men and women; however, the stronger doses are for men only. The side effects of Rogaine are cardiovascular; thus its use in elderly patients may be limited.
Call Our Office If ...
- You notice unusual hair loss.
- You wish to consider drug treatment to restore hair growth.