Hair Loss - Treatment Overview
loss can be caused by
medicines or medical treatments, recent surgery, high
fevers, emotional stress,
lack of protein or
hair care, such as using dyes. Often, treating the
cause stops the hair loss, and hair grows back. In some cases, other treatment
Hair loss caused by
cancer treatment requires special care: use mild
shampoos and do not use a hair dryer.
occurs when the
immune system attacks hair follicles, where hair
growth begins. Because hair usually grows back within a year, you may decide
not to have treatment. Understanding the come-and-go nature of hair loss with
this condition can help you make the best treatment decision. Children and
teens may need counseling to help them adjust to the hair loss.
Medicine used for alopecia areata includes:
- Corticosteroids injected into the scalp.
The corticosteroid is injected many times about
1 cm (0.4 in.) apart every 4 to
6 weeks. This is the most common treatment in adults and is best used for
treating patchy hair loss. Limited research reports that hair grows back at the
site of injection in some people.1
- Corticosteroid ointments or creams you put on the
scalp. There is little evidence that they cause hair growth when used
alone.1 Corticosteroids may be used along with
injected steroids or with other medicines such as minoxidil
- Corticosteroids you take by mouth (oral). Although this
results in hair growth, it is rarely used because of the side effects of oral
- Contact immunotherapy, which may be the most effective treatment for severe
alopecia areata.1 A common medicine used is
diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP), which is "painted" on the scalp once a week at
increasing strengths. The DPCP irritates the skin, making it itchy and scaly.
This treatment is not widely available.
- Psoralen with ultraviolet A light (PUVA) therapy. For PUVA, a medicine called a psoralen is used
to make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Then the skin is
exposed to UVA light.
What To Think About
How successful your treatment
is depends on your expectations and the cause of hair loss. Treatment for hair
loss caused by an illness, medicine, or damage to the hair usually is more
successful than treatment for inherited hair loss.
about inherited hair loss include:
- The cost. Medicine or surgery to treat hair loss can be
expensive and often is not covered by insurance.
- Length of
treatment. Medicines must be taken continuously, or the regrown or thickened
hair will fall out. Surgery can be lengthy, and in most cases you will need
several surgeries to achieve the coverage you want.
- Side effects.
Long-term effects of some hair loss medicines are not known.
of treatment. Medicines that must be taken continuously can be expensive and
can increase the chance of side effects. Surgery, which may be a more permanent
solution, is also expensive. In addition, surgery involves risks and the chance
that not all hair follicles will remain healthy.
Women with inherited hair loss who wish to take birth
control pills should use a pill type that does not add to hair loss, such as a
norgestimate or ethynodiol diacetate.3