When You Seek Help

Toppik on 3 November 2014

When you seek the help of a doctor or other health professional, it is important to have clear expectations. You should always expect that your physician will look thoroughly into the reasons for your hair loss.

The overwhelming majority – in excess of 95 per cent – of cases of hair loss in men fall into the category of male pattern baldness. It is also clear that most hair loss in women is in the category of female pattern baldness. The likelihood of hair loss being caused by something else is therefore very slight. Nevertheless, it is important that health professionals are open to alternative diagnoses.

Once the cause of the hair loss has been established, a decision can be made on the best method of treatment. When searching for the best method we would suggest that you consider the issues discussed here.

The Positives and Negatives of Treatment Alternatives

Cosmetic Concealers

Positives

Cosmetic Consealers

  • Instant results
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easily applied

Negatives

  • Can be messy
  • Need to be applied daily
  • Temporary solution

 

Pharmaceutical Treatment

Positives

Pharmaceutical Treatment

  • Can stop hair loss and in some cases promote limited hair growth
  • Can be used in conjunction with surgery to limit further hair loss

Negatives

  • Possible side-effects
  • Long-term drug treatment is required to maintain the benefits
  • Topical products can be inconvenient

 

Hair Systems

Positives

Hair Systems

  • Thick, full appearance is achievable
  • Instant coverage
  • Easily reversible

Negatives

  • Can look like a wig and wearer may feel self-conscious about their appearance
  • Lifestyle restrictions
  • Costly to purchase and maintain

 

Surgery

Positives

Surgery

  • Results last a lifetime
  • Your own growing hair
  • No special maintenance required
  • Undetectable results are achievable
  • Can be most cost-effective over the long-term

Negatives

  • Surgical procedure
  • Time off work is required to undergo and recover from the procedure
  • Results will never be as thick as the hair you once had
  • Can have a high initial entry cost

 

Having a Strategy

It is important that you take responsibility for your own treatment and undertake your own research into the range of alternatives that are available. Before you make a decision about the kind of treatment you will undergo, you should take the following steps:

  • Read widely, but critically
  • Attend information series
  • Familiarise yourself with the range of approached and treatments available
  • Develop a clear understanding of the causes of hair loss – with this information in mind, you will be better equipped to assess how believable the claims made about various treatments are
  • Check the credentials of the practitioner and the organisation offering the treatment
  • Read testimonials, but also meet people face-to-face who have undergone the treatment you are considering, and ask them to tell you about their experience
  • Develop a clear set of criteria on which to base your decision

Examination

Here are some useful criteria to consider:

Prospects:

  • What can you reasonably expect from the treatment or procedure?

Logic behind the treatment:

  • Is the method and rationale that underpins this approach sound?

Costs involved:

  • Are there initial consultation fees?
  • How expensive is the initial treatment?
  • Is follow-up treatment likely to be required?
  • Are there any hidden costs?
  • What will be the long-term cost, over ten years or a lifetime?

Level of inconvenience involved:

  • With some treatments, such as lotions and ointments, there will be no pain; with others, some degree of discomfort may be expected.

Side-effects and after-effects:

  • Are there any side-effects? (This question will apply in particular with pharmaceutical treatments.)
  • Are there any long-term after-effects?

Limitations:

  • Are there any limitations on the success of the approach? For example, are there medical conditions that make the drug or process being offered inappropriate?

Time frame:

  • Over what period of time will the treatment take place?
  • Will follow-up treatment be necessary?

Appearance (during and after treatment):

  • Will the treatment enable you to look the way you want to look? (For most men, this can be translated into, ‘Will I have hair that looks natural, or will I be constantly self-conscious?’)

Aftercare:

  • Will I have to follow any special procedures or maintenance – special cleaning, on-going drug treatment, further consultations?

Approval:

  • Does the method have the necessary health and safety approval? (Drug treatments, for example, must pass a formal testing and accreditation process before they become legally available.)

Permanence:

  • How long will the results of the treatment last?

Evidence:

  • What evidence is there to support the use of the approach? Try to double-check any research results and testimonials you read.

Here is a list of situations to be cautious of:

  • The clinic does not thoroughly assess the nature, extent and causes of your hair loss.
  • The clinic tries to persuade you in the direction of a single treatment or procedure without discussing the range of options.
  • The clinic relies solely on anonymous testimonials and is unable to put you in direct touch with other clients who have benefited from the procedure.
  • You can find no specific scientific evidence that supports the claims about the clinic’s treatment. For example, with regard to the various drug treatments, research methods and results are written up in the literature on the subject. The same is true of hair transplant techniques: practitioners should be able to produce written evidence that their approach has been shown to be effective in scientific studies.
  • Claims are made about miracle cures or procedures. Some clinics use technological fads to attract unsuspecting customers. One example of such a situation is the advertising of laser treatment for hair loss. This is pure gimmickry. At this stage in its development, laser technology has no known application in treating hair loss.
  • There is no discussion of the potential side-effects or negative aspects of the treatment.
  • The clinic uses pseudo-scientific jargon to sell its treatment. Advertisers have long understood the power of technical-sounding language to influence uninformed buyers.
  • The product is sold as a ‘tried-and-tested’ solution. Claims like this should be treated with scepticism. If it’s a tried-and-tested remedy, why doesn’t everybody know about it already? Anything that purports to rely on the patient’s efforts offers a convenient loophole to avoid blame when the treatment turns out not to work.

A useful consumer website to investigate is www.thebaldtruth.org, which deals firmly with irresponsible and over-hyped claims of various hair loss treatments and cures.

What if you think you hair loss is caused by something other than genetic factors? Generally speaking, if there is any reason to believe your hair loss is caused by factors other than male or female pattern baldness, you should inform your doctor about your concerns.

Medical History

When examining your medical history, the doctor should ask a range of questions that might help to document the details of your hair loss.

Medical History Hair Loss Locations

Attention should be paid to things like:

  • The locations and pattern of the hair loss.
  • Whether you have had a recent illness.
  • High fever.
  • Your hair-care habits.
  • Your emotional state.
  • Whether you have been under unusual stress recently.
  • Whether you have nervous habits such as hair pulling and scalp rubbing.
  • Your history of accidents and emergencies – whether you have ever been involved in an accident that affected your scalp or hair/
  • Whether other symptoms are also present.
  • What medication you have been taking.

Physical Examination

A thorough examination of the hair and scalp is usually enough to diagnose the nature of the problem. Diagnostic tests are not usually necessary, but possible tests include:

  • Microscopic examination of a plucked hair.
  • Skin biopsy (if skin changes are present).

Summary

It is important to take a proactive approach when seeking an appropriate hair loss treatment. Before committing yourself to any treatment, it is important to:

  • Read widely
  • Attend information sessions
  • Find out about the range of approaches and treatments
  • Develop a clear understanding of the causes of hair loss
  • Check the credentials of the practitioner and the organisation offering the treatment
  • Develop a clear set of criteria on which to base a decision
  • Examine the evidence