Losing Your Hair?
Treating Female Pattern Baldness continued...
Propecia, the second FDA-approved treatment, is taken in pill
form. However, it is not approved for use in women because it may cause birth
defects. In fact, the FDA requires warnings against its use in women who are or
may become pregnant. Still, doctors often find that Propecia works for women
too, says Greene. "Many doctors do prescribe Propecia off-label to women
with hair loss, especially those past menopause," he says.
Sawaya, however, warns against the practice for women of
childbearing age. "In almost every clinical trial I have worked on, women
will say they are on birth control and aren't planning to get pregnant, but
every time we find that one or two do get pregnant anyway," she says.
Because of the risk of birth defects, she feels women of childbearing age
should not take Propecia or even handle it.
What's more, there appears to be no advantage to taking this
drug -- it hasn't been proven any more effective than topical minoxidil. And
Propecia also takes up to a year to make a significant difference and must be
taken for life.
Another option that women like Tracy might consider is
hair-transplant surgery. In this treatment, a strip of donor hair follicles is
taken from an area of the head not affected by thinning. The strip is then cut
into very small grafts, containing just a few follicles each, which are then
implanted into small cuts made in the areas of thinning. If all goes well, the
transplanted follicles establish a new blood supply and the hair grows. The
treatment may take several sessions to relocate enough hair to adequately cover
the desired areas, and final results won't be seen for at least a year.
Not every woman is a good candidate for surgery, however.
"The problem is that women need to have an area to get the donor hair
from," says Greene, who performs hair transplants on women. But because
female pattern baldness tends to be diffuse, in many cases the back of the head
is often no better than the top or the sides, he says.