The hair on our heads represents a distinctive part of our overall appearance and self-image. It’s functional importance is of questionable significance, but it’s aesthetic value is undeniable. The color, thickness, texture, length, and style and in some instances the absence of our hair help distinguish us from those around us and add variety to our daily “wardrobe”. The partial or complete loss of hair is known as baldness or alopecia.
More than 50 million American men and 20 million women are losing their hair and experiencing some degree of baldness. By age 30 approximately one-fourth of men begin to show signs of baldness and by age 60 about two-thirds are either bald or balding.
A thorough evaluation of the cause of hair loss should include a visit to a dermatologist or endocrinologist. Sudden, rapid loss of hair may be related to high fever, severe infection, radiation therapy, stress, weight loss, dietary deficiencies, abnormalities of the thyroid gland, childbirth, and some medications. More commonly losing your hair is gradual and may follow a pattern referred to as male or female-pattern baldness.Genetics are responsible for the majority of baldness.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
In situations where the hair loss is related to such factors as diet, medications, stress, illness, etc. correction of the underlying problem will often provide the solution. However in the majority of cases in which genetics is the culprit and male or female-pattern baldness is developing two medications are currently on the market.
Propecia (finasteride) is a tablet taken by mouth once/day. It inhibits an enzyme that converts the male hormone, testosterone, into dihydro-testosterone, which is the substance that triggers hair loss. A possible side effect in a small percentage of men is impotence. Pregnant women or those with a potential for pregnancy should avoid this drug-even touching it may cause abnormalities in a developing fetus. This medication is available by prescription only and the cost is about $50./mo.
Rogaine (minoxidil) causes hair follicles to lengthen their growth cycle. It is applied topically twice/day. It can be used by both men and women and should be started at the first sign of hair loss. If effectiveness is demonstrated, continued use is required or else hair loss will recur. This drug is available over-the-counter and costs about $25./mo. As many people have discovered, even the latest medications fail to halt progressive hair loss and baldness. Some may opt for wigs, hair weaves, dyes, hats and even hair transplants to disguise or change their appearance. For others an extra dab of sunscreen on their glistening pate and adopting a “bald is beautiful” attitude is all that’s needed.