Hair loss: Don’t despair, treatment is here

Every day, most people lose approximately 100 hairs from their heads. But nobody notices, because nearly 100,000 strands remain. It is only when the 100 lost ones aren’t replaced by 100 new ones growing in that someone goes bald.

Usually hair loss isn’t obvious until someone loses more than 50 percent of the hair on their head. But the loss can start surreptitiously, sometimes with men in their 20s and women in their 30s or 40s.

Hair loss leads some to despair.

Hair growth plays an important role in social and sexual communication, according to two French dermatologists who edited a new book on hair loss, “The Alopecias” (CRC Press, 2016). Hair loss leads some sufferers to the local drugstore for a quick fix.

“Despite the more recent genuine advances in effective medical treatments, hair cosmetics and surgical procedures, phony hair-loss solutions continue to be marketed today with an amazing success,” said Swiss dermatologist Ralph Trueb, one of the book’s contributors.

“The Alopecias” contains detailed clinical information on recent advances in treatments. The book’s 19 chapters explore the diagnoses and treatment of hair loss, with information on prescription drug treatments, hormonal treatments, surgery, other transplant procedures and still-experimental treatments using cell implantation, platelet-rich plasma and stem cells.

For those who want a less clinical and more mainstream guide to hair-loss solutions, “Hair Loss for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) is a good primer written by four medical doctors who specialize in hair loss.

According to “Dummies,” hair loss in men is caused by genetics more than 90 percent of the time. In women, genetic hair loss may be less common. Other causes include hormone fluctuations from menopause, thyroid disease, anemia, prescription drugs or extreme weight loss.

Either way, it can’t always be blamed on your mother’s side of the family, as researchers once believed. Most scientists now think that the genes influencing common baldness can be inherited from the mother’s or the father’s side of the family.

SOLUTIONS

Regardless of the culprits, there’s still an impressive variety of solutions for hair that is starting to thin. Wigs or toupees, once the butt of jokes, have evolved into elaborate “hair replacement systems,” many made from human hair rather than artificial fibers.

Among the newer solutions described in “Hair Loss for Dummies”:

• Hair systems that are woven into existing human hair.

• Tiny fibers added to the base of existing hair follicles by shaking a salt- or pepper-type bottle filled with the fibers onto your head. The fibers add bulk to hair and are kept in place by static electricity. Some products use organic keratin fibers similar to human hair.

• Laser therapy, which stimulates new hair growth but is not effective on areas already bald.

You will find these books and many more on the shelves of Stanford Health Library. Electronic books are also available, accessed through the library website at healthlibrary.stanford.edu/resources/ebooks.html. Using the login and password available on the main screen, click the blue “EBSCO Host” button and enter the login and password.

The main branch of Stanford Health Library is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Hoover Pavilion, 211 Quarry Road, Suite 201. Other locations include Stanford Cancer Center Palo Alto, the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto and the Stanford Cancer Center South Bay in San Jose.

Donna Alvarado is a health library specialist at Stanford Health Library. For more information, call 725-8400, email [email protected] or visit healthlibrary.stanford.edu.

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