Losing those first dozen strands of hair can be a very traumatic experience. No one likes the emergence of a receding hairline and the vulgar thinning of those once-thick locks. Unsurprisingly, not many see it coming. Male pattern baldness is an exceedingly stark reality for a substantial number of men with numerous figures pointing to around 85% of men experiencing some form of thinning by the age of 50. Researchers based in Berlin have commented that hair loss is shamelessly accompanied by emotional burdens; the likes of which can terrifyingly eventually balloon into full-blown psychological disorders. It is haunting to know that Global figures indicate that currently 70% of the men lose their hair, both complete and partially, compared with 30% to 35% in the ’70s to the ’90s. For females, that statistic is at 35% to 40%, up from 6% to 7%. Therefore, the issue of hair loss is not to be burlesqued as it is a serious affliction that plagues a prominent majority of men.
Although it is true that men are more likely to lose their hair than women, but thinning hair and hair loss are also not unseen in women, and no less demoralizing for that matter as well. Reasons can range from the simple and temporary: a vitamin deficiency, to the more complex and threatening: an underlying health condition. In many cases, there are many different ways to treat both male and female hair loss. But in order for us to do that, we have to figure out the most likely cause. Let’s delve into some of the major reasons that account for the sparsely covered head of yours.
i) Male Pattern Baldness: About two out of three men experience marked hair loss by the age of 60, and more often than not it is due to male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss, caused by an amalgam of genes and male sex hormones, usually follows a classic pattern in which the hair recedes at the temples, leaving behind an M-shaped hairline.
ii) Female Pattern Baldness: Female-pattern hair loss, called androgenic or androgenetic alopecia, is basically the female version of male pattern baldness. If a female belongs to a family where the girls start to lose hair at a young age, the female is predisposed to this condition. Unlike men, women don’t tend to have a receding hairline, instead their part may widen and they mostly have noticeable thinning of hair.
iii) Dramatic Weight Loss: Sudden weight loss is a form of physical trauma that can result in the thinning of hair. This could happen even if the weight loss is ultimately conducive to that person’s health. It is possible that the weight loss itself is stressing his body or that not eating right is resulting in vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Loss of hair along with noticeable weight loss may also be a sign of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
iv) Pregnancy: Pregnancy is one example of the type of physical stress that can cause hair loss (that and hormones). Pregnancy-related hair loss is seen more commonly after the person’s baby has been delivered rather than actually during pregnancy.
v) Too Much of Vitamin A: Overdoing vitamin A-containing supplements or medications can trigger hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The recommended daily intake for vitamin A is 5,000 International Units (IU) per day for adults and kids over age 4; supplements can contain 2,500 to 10,000 IU.
vi) Improper Diet: To function at their best, the cells in the hair and throughout the body need a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, iron, vitamins and minerals. Meats, especially red meats, are particularly important because they are the richest sources of ferritin, a stored iron that helps the body produce hair cell protein. Therefore, an imbalance of these basic constituents can lead to considerable hair loss.
vii) Imbalanced Hormonal Levels: Disturbed levels of cortisol or thyroid hormone in the body can have disastrous effects on a person’s hair. An underactive and an overactive thyroid gland both cause marked hair fall. Similarly, a person with raised stress levels is more prone to lose his hair.
viii) Chemotherapy: Some of the drugs used to beat back cancer unfortunately can also cause your hair to fall out. Chemotherapy is like a nuclear bomb. It destroys rapidly dividing cancer cells, but also rapidly dividing cells like hair.
The process of hair loss is a complicated phenomenon that occurs when DHT starts attacking hair follicles, this results in hair miniaturization and produces thinner and shorter hair. Slowly but surely the thicker hair on top is replaced by the weakened thinning hair at the bottom, this results in people starting to thin at the top. The hair loss process is based predominantly on genetics, if a person’s genes are coded to resist DHT they are immune from baldness. Generally, the hair follicles situated at the back and the sides of the head are resistant to DHT, therefore, hair loss in that region is rare.
Technology has advanced at a rapid pace this millennium and has also permeated into the world of medicine, more specifically procedures revolving around hair transplants. Many prominent celebrities and athletes are increasingly opting for hair transplants and are open about discussing them publicly. The stigma that once hovered around hair transplants has been broken to a very large extent, aided no doubt by popular acceptance.
Before getting the treatment itself, it is pertinent to know details like the different types of procedures available in the market and the kind of questions to ask the doctors during consultations. Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that removes hair follicles from one part of the body, called the ‘donor site’, to a bald or balding part of the body known as the ‘recipient site’. The technique is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness. In this minimally invasive procedure, grafts containing hair follicles that are genetically resistant to balding (like the back of the head) are transplanted to the bald scalp. Since hair naturally grows in groupings of 1 to 4 hairs, current techniques harvest and transplant hair “follicular units” in their natural groupings. Thus, modern hair transplantation can achieve a natural appearance by mimicking original hair orientation. Donor hair can be harvested in two different ways: follicular unit transplant (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE).
The Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), also known as strip harvesting, involves removing a small strip of tissue from the back of the head, from which the donor hair follicles will be extracted. The hair follicles are harvested from the strip by a skilled clinical team before being individually transplanted to the recipient areas. In most cases, and especially cases of advanced hair loss, FUT is the preferred method because it allows the physician to fully utilize the scalp area to deliver results consistent with patient expectations. FUT typically allows for the greatest number of grafts to be transplanted in a single session. Some patients report higher levels of discomfort with FUT procedures compared to FUE due the potential swelling in the area where the strip of tissue was removed, but both methods have a very manageable recovery period and pain medication can be prescribed by your physician if needed. Both techniques of hair transplantation are relatively simple. Hair transplantation procedures are outpatient surgeries with some patients going back to work as soon as the very next day. The FUT strip extraction method typically results in a very narrow linear scar in the back of the head. Since the scar is very thin, it is easily concealed by all but the shortest of haircut styles.
The proverbial gold standard of hair transplant treatments is what is known as the FUE hair transplant, in this method single follicles are removed from the donor area of the scalp with a specialized cutting tool. The follicles are then transferred to the recipient area. Using a specialist micro surgical needle, the surgeon will puncture the scalp area that will receive the grafts. The grafts are then inserted at an angle into the recipient area, and with a specific density, so that it will resemble a natural and realistic hair pattern. With no stitches required and no linear scar left to heal, FUE procedures do have a faster healing time and less post-procedure discomfort compared to the traditional FUT procedure. Since FUE procedures involve removing hairs individually from the scalp, there is no linear scar left behind. However, there will be tiny 1mm in diameter or less puncture marks that tend to heal by themselves after scabbing-over in the days following the procedure. These tiny wounds typically heal within three to seven days.
A hair transplant procedure depends largely on the amount of hair follicles that are being transplanted, however 8 hours per procedure is an accurate gauge of the duration. A single hair restoration session can plant no more than 4,000 to 5,000 strands and a client can sit for a maximum of four sessions, via clinical or cosmetic processes. An FUT transplant is likely to take around a month to completely heal and, in the interim, expect reddish coloration of the scalp which may last for a few weeks. Prominent signs of progress are usually seen around the one-year mark, however, in many cases significant hair growth is noticed around four months.
Appropriate post-operative care is imperative to successful restoration of hair. Advances in wound care allow for semi-permeable dressing, which allow seepage of blood and tissue fluid, to be applied and changed at least daily. The vulnerable recipient area must be protected from direct sunlight, and shampooing should be started two days after the surgery. Some surgeons will have the patient shampoo the day after surgery. Shampooing is important to prevent scabs from forming around the hair shaft. Scabs adhere to the hair shaft and increase the risk of losing newly transplanted hair follicles during the first 7 to 10 days post-op. During the first ten days, some of the transplanted hairs, inevitably traumatized by their relocation, may fall out. This is referred to as “shock loss”. After two to three months, new hair will begin to grow from the moved follicles. The patient’s hair will grow normally, and continue to thicken through the next six to nine months. Any subsequent hair loss is likely to be only from untreated areas. Some patients elect to use medications to hamper such loss, while others plan a subsequent transplant procedure to deal with this eventuality.
However, hair transplantations are not thoroughly rosy procedures. It’s a costly affair as it involves precision and delicate handling of the hair follicle. The higher the number of graft counts, the more the overall pricing. While the transplant leads to healthy hair growth, it may take months for you to notice visible growth in the length of your hair. The procedure may lead to possible side effects such as scalp swelling, itching, numbness of the scalp, infections, folliculitis, burning up of the skin, bleeding and other associated complications. Moreover, because the transplanted hairs will act similarly to the way they would have in the donor site, hair transplants are not guaranteed to last forever but it is safe to say that they will last for a long time. It almost goes without saying that a patient needs to have some hair left over to transplant, but the more they have left over the better the resulting coverage.
In a country like Pakistan, the biggest impediment in the way of hair transplant surgeries is the cost factor. It all adds up and makes sense since the procedure can cost from anywhere around Rs 50,000 to Rs 500,000 depending on the procedure that you opt for, the number of hairs to be transplanted, the hospital where it is being performed and the doctor who is performing the surgery. As the hefty price tag can not be over-looked, this leaves such surgeries for only the affluent few of this country since it is mostly done purely for the sake of aesthetics and has no real necessity. For something that is purely surplus for the looks, the average Joe won’t fish out the big bucks required for it.
But all in all, hair transplant procedures act as a godsend for those with rapidly thinning or balding hair. Although the procedure is not inherently foolproof, it does garner astonishing results for patients. Studies show that hair transplants have a success rate of about 98 per cent which is among the highest success rates for surgeries. The treatment is available and is super effective for those looking to bring back that youthful glow to their aging faces.