Hair Loss Treatment
Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. But some hair loss is permanent. With some conditions, such as patchy alopecia, hair may regrow without treatment within a year.
Treatments for hair loss include medications, surgery, laser therapy, and wigs or hairpieces. Your doctor may suggest a combination of these approaches in order to get the best results.
The goals of treatment are to promote hair growth, slow hair loss or hide hair loss.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease will be necessary. This may include drugs to reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system, such as prednisone. If a certain medication is causing the hair loss, your doctor may advise you to stop using it for at least three months.
Medications are available to treat pattern baldness. Two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss are:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine). Minoxidil is an over-the-counter liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp twice a day to grow hair and to prevent further hair loss. It may be used by men and women. With this treatment, some people experience hair regrowth, a slower rate of hair loss or both. The effect peaks at 16 weeks and you need to keep applying the medication to retain benefits.
- Possible side effects include scalp irritation, unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
- Finasteride (Propecia). This prescription drug is available only to men. It's taken daily in pill form. Many men taking finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show some new hair growth. You need to keep taking it to retain benefits.
- Rare side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Women who are or may be pregnant need to avoid touching crushed or broken tablets.
Tests and diagnosis
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and ask about your medical history and family history. He or she may also perform tests, such as the following: