WHAT’S THE BEST OPTION FOR YOU?
Blog by Dr Bessam Farjo, founder of the Farjo Hair Institute and medical director of the Institute of Trichologists.
Every week, it seems a new ‘miracle’ cure for alopecia is hitting the headlines, but it’s important that those living with the condition know all the facts before starting a new treatment. Estimated to affect over 1.7 per cent of the UK population, new potential treatments for alopecia will always be a hot topic, but it’s my job to ensure that people exploring treatments are correctly informed and advised before any decisions are made.
As many of you will know, alopecia areata is renowned for its sudden and random onset, whilst other forms, such as traction alopecia and female pattern hair loss, are more progressive.
Treatment of alopecia areata can be controversial and, if you’re happy to live with your hair loss, my first piece of advice would be to leave it alone to see if it recovers on its own. Alopecia areata is a very unpredictable condition and there is always the potential that it will grow back without any treatment at all.
If you’re keen to consider taking action, many doctors will advise you to start with steroid injections, as these are generally deemed the most effective form of treatment. These injections contain corticosteroids – an anti-inflammatory medicine which is essentially a man-made version of a hormone usually produced by the adrenal glands. As alopecia areata is a condition caused by the immune system ‘attacking’ its own hair follicles, the steroid injection works to suppress the immune system, so that hair follicles have the opportunity to grow back. These injections are usually administered to the affected area on a regular basis – but it differs from patient to patient.
Another option available on prescription is oral corticosteroids, such as Prednisone. Again, these steroids work by suppressing the immune system to allow hair to grow.
Many people will also be given the option of applying steroids topically, but the real long-term benefits of this are unproven.
For those suffering from female pattern hair loss, there are an abundance of additional options available. Minoxidil – which is available to buy in lotion or foam (Regaine) – most likely works by regulating the potassium channels in cell membranes, and allows increased production of protein. This was proven by published research we collaborated on a few years ago, with University of Bradford.
Low level laser treatment may also be something that people with female pattern hair loss would like to consider. Laser treatment works by projecting laser light energy directly on to the scalp to help strengthen the cells within hair follicles, thus promoting growth.
Of course, hair transplant surgery is also an option for female pattern hair loss sufferers – although this needs to be carefully considered. Some women are more suited to surgical treatments that others, while some are not suitable candidates at all. There are a several different surgery options, including Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and ARTAS Robot.
The main difference between these procedures is that follicular units grafts are harvested in strips from the donor area for FUT – which are then microscopically dissected and prepared – whereas grafts are extracted individually in FUE. The ARTAS robotic procedure is a minimally invasive option that uses digital imaging and precision robotics to harvest healthy grafts for transplantation by the FUE method. There is no need for the surgical removal of a strip of tissue from the back and sides of the head, which means there’s no need for stitches or staples to close the wound. Benefits of FUE include a quick recovery time and the ability to return to normal activities soon after surgery, while FUT surgeries typically allow the transplantation of more hairs.
Other people claim that platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP), Derma Roller and even Minodoxil are worthwhile treatments for alopecia areata. However, in my opinion, I think that the likelihood of results with these treatments is purely coincidental, as the hair more often than not comes and goes anyway.
At the Farjo Hair Institute, we work hard to make sure our patients are armed with all the information they need to make the best decision for themselves, whether that is surgery, medicine or ‘watchful waiting’.
|Dr Bessam Farjo|
Want to keep reading...? Here's another guest post by Mark Blake Trichologist, with a Q&A on alopecia...
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