Hair fall is a common complaint and can affect both men and women. With changing lifestyles and diet, increasing hormonal problems and fad diets have contributed to the alarming rise in the number of people suffering from hair loss even at younger ages. The treatment of hair fall has to be done early and needs good evaluation to understand the root cause. Usually, medical treatment alone cannot alleviate the hair fall quickly. So, treatments such as low-level laser therapy are used for quick results.
What are the types of hair loss?
The two basic types of hair loss are diffuse hair loss and patchy hair loss. When the hair is loss is over the full scalp it is known as diffuse hair loss. Sometimes, the hair is lost over a few patches. This is called patchy hair loss. It is important to differentiate these two types of hair loss because the causes and treatment of these are very different.
What causes generalized or diffuse hair loss?
There are many causes of hair loss. When there is loss of hair all over the scalp, and not just in patches, it is known as generalized or diffuse hair loss. This can be sudden in onset or can happen over long periods. Sudden onset of diffuse hair loss is called acute telogen effluvium. Common causes of acute telogen effluvium include Post viral fever hair loss, post-pregnancy hair loss, hair loss which follows fad diets, hair loss after any severe illness or surgery. This hair loss is self-limiting and the hair regrows by itself.
Sometimes, hair loss does not stop but is persistent. This is called chronic telogen effluvium and is more common in women. This may be because of underlying problems like thyroid dysfunction, vitamin deficiency, anemia or binge eating habits. In such patients, further evaluation with a blood test may be needed for these conditions to be diagnosed.
The male and female pattern hair loss may also start as diffuse hair loss before the patterns are established. These can be diagnosed by dermoscopy.
What causes patchy hair loss?
Patchy hair loss is seen in the following medical conditions such as fungal infections, alopecia areata and autoimmune skin disorders such as DLE and Lichen Planus. The diagnosis of this type of alopecia needs evaluation with dermoscopy and KOH scrapings, it is best to consult a dermatologist for the diagnosis of this type of hair loss.
What tests are done for understanding the causes of hair loss?
The common tests done for hair loss are:
Dermoscopy or Trichoscopy: This is a non-invasive test done by the dermatologist to assess the size and numbers of hair and types of hair using a magnifying device called Dermoscope
Hair pull test: This helps to ascertain the numbers of hair to check for improvement during treatment
KOH test: This test is done when a fungal infection is suspected
Skin biopsy: Very rarely done when the cause of hair loss is not determined by the other tests
Blood tests to rule out anemia, thyroid, hormonal problems, vitamin deficiencies, etc.
What are the treatments for hair loss?
The most important part of the treatment of hair loss is getting to the correct diagnosis. Once this is established, then the diet and lifestyle recommendations are made. Vitamin and mineral supplements along with a high protein diet are recommended. The mainstay of medical treatment is combinations of Minoxidil and peptide serums. This prevents hair loss and helps with slowing thinning of hair shafts.
To help to arrest hair loss further treatments such as Low-level laser therapy (link to LLLT page), Microneedle (link) treatments, Platelet-rich plasma treatment (link) and growth factor infusion treatments are suggested depending on the severity of the hair loss.
When can I see results?
Usually, improvement in hair fall happens within 2 months of starting treatments. Improvement in the thickness of hair may take up to 6 months after starting treatments.