If you were judging by news headlines, you'd think we cured baldness in 2013. This past October, after scientists announced they successfully grew human hair in the laboratory, many media outlets misleadingly reported it as a "miracle cure" and quite possibly the end of baldness. But the reality is far different -- hair "cloning", gene therapy and other wonder treatments are still not ready for primetime -- and potentially a long way away from becoming available at your local doctor's office.
But though we've yet to discover a "cure" for baldness, that doesn't mean there aren't breakthrough treatments out there -- and 2014 could be a banner year for several important new hair loss treatments.
If you're one of the 80 million American men and women who suffer from hair loss, here are four key treatments that could become more widely available to you in 2014:
- Vampire PRP -- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, also known as "Vampire PRP," is one of the hottest new treatments to become available for hair loss sufferers. PRP has been widely used in orthopedics, dentistry and plastic surgery for decades now -- even professional athletes like LeBron James and Tiger Woods have used it -- and it's now being adopted within the hair restoration field as well.
Since 2011, we've tested this treatment at my practice on both male and female patients and found it to be highly effective. It works extremely well for alopecia areata patients, as a substitute for current steroid injections; but it's also a highly effective treatment for traditional hair loss cases, with results often exceeding those produced by over-the-counter minoxidil in just a single office visit.
The number of doctors offering PRP is still relatively small, but expect to see more widespread adoption and availability this year. So, what is PRP? In short, PRP is a therapy that uses modified blood to stimulate hair growth. A simple blood-draw is performed, and the blood is then spun in a special centrifuge and specially processed to produce the PRP -- a powerful growth factor "cocktail." The patient's scalp is then numbed for comfort, and the PRP is administered through a series of injections into the scalp. Currently, there are a few different PRP options to choose from: Autologel PRP, or PRP with ACell/Matristem -- a product derived from pig's bladder, or PRP plus BioD/Amniogenix human amniotic stem cells.
- Compounded Finasteride/Minoxidil - FDA-approved minoxidil is getting a big boost with a number of high-strength, "compounded" minoxidil alternatives that significantly increase the drug's efficacy for hair loss. It has been reported that standard over-the-counter minoxidil may only work in 38.3 percent of patients, according to some studies. These off-label, customized, compounded minoxidil products contain the same FDA-approved key active ingredient, but in a more user-friendly, powerful mixture that reduces side effects and increases the potency of the drug. Compounded minoxidil is less irritating, less greasy and more effective at stimulating the hair follicles. Off-label compounded minoxidil can be obtained with a doctor's prescription.
- Lasers -- Once viewed with skepticism, low-level laser therapy (or LLLT) is now widely used in a variety of medical disciplines and has become a key tool in the hair restoration specialist's arsenal due to its ability to rejuvenate dying hair follicles. With the FDA clearance of mutliple laser devices (Sunetics' Clinical G-type Lasers and Laser Brush, HairMax's LaserComb, Apira Science's iGrow, Theradome's LH80 PRO and Midwest RF's MEP-90) and strong clinical evidence supporting its efficacy, more physicians are incorporating drug-free laser therapy, in combination with other treatments, to provide optimum results for men and women seeking to restore their locks, or stimulate healthy hair growth. In the beginning, laser therapy was limited to in-office clinical laser "hood" treatments and at-home hand-held laser "combs" or "brushes." However, a new wave of wearable helmet-style and more discreet hat-shaped laser devices are now entering the market and will become more widely available at doctors' offices this year.
- Machine-Assisted Minimally-Invasive "FUE" Hair Transplants - FUE, or Follicular Unit Extraction, is a less-invasive method of harvesting hair follicles and "follicular units" individually, eliminating the linear or 'strip' harvest approach to transplantation. This meticulous process has been made more efficient through robotics, semi-automatic devices and well-trained surgical teams. The first robotic hair transplant harvesting system -- ARTAS -- recently became available, and some doctors who have found it difficult to perform FUE are using this machine to assist in the process. Other hand-held surgical devices, like NeoGraft FUE, help doctors to perform a hair transplant surgery with remarkable precision, less trauma as well as help extract the grafts from the scalp. FUE is an effective surgical option for patients that allows for a quicker, more comfortable recovery, less post-op activity restrictions, as well as avoiding the tell-tale linear scar associated with traditional linear strip-harvest hair transplants. However, regardless of how the hair follicles are harvested, the critical step for naturalness is the artistry of the surgeon involved. Patients, therefore, should not choose their surgeon based on the tool they use, but more so on their artistic ability.
If you're worried about hair loss, it's important to consult with an experienced hair restoration physician --someone who specializes exclusively in the medical diagnosis, treatment and tracking of hair loss and its treatment. Only a qualified and experienced hair restoration physician can prescribe the most effective multi-therapy treatment options, including the latest available products and treatments, like those mentioned above. To find a qualified hair restoration specialist, start by visiting the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery or the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery.
Either an underactive thyroid, a medical condition called hypothyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, can result in hair loss because each condition causes a hormonal imbalance. Hormones help to regulate nearly every function in the body, including hair growth. Getting the right treatment to control either of these thyroid conditions will get hormones under control, stop hair loss, and allow your hair to starting grow back.
Other hormonal imbalances can also lead to hair loss, especially the wildly fluctuating hormones that occur following pregnancy and childbirth. It takes time after pregnancy for hormone levels to return to normal, so it's not at all uncommon for post-partum moms to notice thinning hair or even patches of baldness. This often occurs about three months after baby’s arrival. Don't worry — as the rest of your body recovers, so will your hair follicles. The hair loss is only temporary — your hair will grow back.
Hair loss is a side effect of a number of medications taken for common health problems. Blood-thinning medications, oral contraceptives, drugs for depression, NSAIDs, and beta and calcium channel blockers can all lead to thinning hair or baldness. Too much vitamin A and vitamin A-based drugs called retinoids can cause hair loss as well. Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer are known to cause total hair loss as they work to destroy cancer cells. Just as hair usually grows back after chemo, it should also grow back once you stop taking any medication that causes hair loss.
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, and there are two main types: alopecia areata and androgenic (androgenetic) alopecia. Alopecia may cause hair loss only on the scalp or all over the body. It may result in thinning hair, patches of hair loss, some balding, or total baldness, and it may be permanent or temporary. There are numerous causes, including genetics. Talk to your doctor about possible treatments.
When your body is under serious physical stress, the natural cycle of hair growth and resting can be disrupted, resulting in hair loss, often in the form of thinning hair — strands may come out in clumps. Any shock to the system, such as being in a severe accident, undergoing surgery, experiencing burns, or becoming very ill, can also shock the hair follicles, resulting in up to 75 percent of your hair falling out, sometimes months after the fact.
When you're dealing with a life-altering event, like a divorce or break-up, bankruptcy or other financial problems, the loss of a home, or the death of a loved one, significant emotional stress can also disrupt the normal cycle of hair growth. Significant emotional stressors can cause temporary hair loss, but once stress is brought under control, normal hair growth is usually restored.
The essential vitamins and nutrients, like protein, that you get from a healthy, varied, and well-balanced diet ensure good health all throughout your body, making sure all your organs and internal systems are working just as they should. Poor nutrition or following a severely restrictive crash or fad diet can lead to all kinds of nutrient deficiencies, which in turn can result in hair loss, from thinning hair to patches of baldness.
In an effort to create a stylish hairdo, you can actually cause significant damage and breakage to strands, which could result in hair loss and thinning hair. Shampooing or blow-drying too frequently, repeatedly using heated styling tools, pulling on hair — whether from blow-drying it or styling it in a too-tight ponytail, for instance — or too vigorously rubbing the scalp can all lead to hair loss.
A number of infections and illnesses can lead to hair loss. An infection that causes a high fever, a fungal skin infection, and bacterial infections like syphilis can all be responsible for balding or thinning hair. Treating the underlying infection can restore hair growth and prevent future hair loss. So your first step is to seek medical attention for the primary health problem.
Alopecia areata is often associated with an autoimmune disease, so it's thought that some forms of hair loss can be caused by one of these medical conditions or is at least somehow related to it. Diabetes and lupus are two autoimmune diseases that can result in hair loss. This type of hair loss may not always be reversible — it may sometimes be permanent. But medications and hair restoration surgeries may help compensate for any hair loss.
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