In previous discussions of the hormone Testosterone, it was noted that testosterone can be converted into a stronger hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. DHT is very necessary for sexual and cognitive functions in men. In fact, without DHT, men are predisposed to cognitive decline, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. This important hormone, DHT has another effect. It has been implicated as the causative agent in hair loss in men. A slightly different mechanism occurs in women and estrone, or E1 deficiency has been implicated ( see the blog on women’s sex hormones). Studies are ongoing to confirm this. In men however, the factors that are implicated in hair loss include age, testosterone metabolite DHT and heredity. Drugs such as propecia block the conversion of Testosterone into DHT and have been partially successful in slowing down thaw progression of male patterned baldness. Rogaine, a drug that dilates small blood vessels and was initially used in the treatment of hypertension, seems to also slow down the progression of androgenetic alopecia but by a different mechanism. The problem is that both of these drugs are dose dependent. Once the patient stops using them, hair loss continues and in some cases to a greater extent.
For fifteen years the use of laser light therapy has been controversial when it comes to hair loss but more and more studies have shown that this modality can stop progression of hair loss in 87% of men and close to 100% of women who use it regularly.This involves a 20-30 minute session under a laser device twice a week, or using a home version for twenty minutes three times a week. Laser therapy is used in our clinic post-operatively. It facilitates healing and growth of the newly implanted hair grafts. Many patients love the effects it has on maintaining good scalp hygiene and making the hair feel thicker and more manageable.
Within the last several years with ongoing research into stem cell therapies, a method known as PLATELET RICH PLASMA has entered the hair loss treatment scene. A patient with thinning areas but no frank baldness can greatly benefit from this. It is known that the platelet fraction of the blood contains numerous growth factors and stem cells that can aid in the treatment of many musculoskeletal problems, dermatologic problems and now hair growth. The patient has his/her blood drawn in the clinic and the blood is spun down so as to isolate the platelet fraction with the growth factors. These factors are then injected into the thinning areas of the scalp and within three months, if successful, hair growth begins. This is not however a cure. Several sessions may be required and here at the clinic we recommend four sessions in the first year followed by six month maintenance sessions to enhance the results. Less expensive than surgical hair restoration, these treatments are ideal for men and women who do not want a surgical procedure and have thinning hair. The treatments do not work on frank bald areas. Interestingly, we have started sing this modality in conjunction with hair restoration surgery. The harvested grafts are placed in this blood fraction while awaiting implantation and the fraction is also injected into the tiny incisions used to house the newly implanted grafts. This facilitates growth and makes the grafted hair stronger.
I have summarized the three most important non-surgical techniques used in hair restoration treatment. Tomorrow we will talk about surgical procedures including the new robotic, automated procedures yielding natural and phenomenal results with very little downtime!