Alopecia has few physically harmful effects but may lead to psychological consequences, including high levels of anxiety and depression. It is a sad but relevant fact that studies have revealed that psychiatric disorders are more common in people with alopecia than in the general population, suggesting that those with alopecia may be at higher risk for developing a serious depressive episode, anxiety disorder, social phobia, or paranoid disorder. Recognition of possible psychological problems accompanying alopecia is important, and such problems need to be dealt with carefully. A good GP will help their patients to understand their alopecia and their psychological responses to the disorder. They can do this partly by providing appropriate information, and GPs may also refer more serious cases for clinical psychology or psychiatric services, as the psychological symptoms experienced are relatively common and have recommended treatment strategies.
There are thousands of so-called remedies for hair loss on the market which all take a healthy profit from cashing in on male insecurities, however, there are currently only three treatments available that are actually licensed for baldness:
Minoxidil – Topical
This is a topical treatment and the mechanism by which minoxidil stimulates hair growth is not fully understood, but Minoxidil is clinically proven to help stop and even reverse hereditary hair loss by reactivating your inactive hair follicles. Minoxidil is applied topically twice a day and is widely used for the treatment of hair loss. It is effective in helping promote hair growth in people with androgenic alopecia, regardless of sex. About 40% of men experience hair regrowth after 3–6 months. Minoxidil must be used indefinitely for the continued support of existing hair follicles and the maintenance of any experienced hair regrowth
Finasteride – Oral drug
This medication works by decreasing the amount of a natural body hormone, DHT. Decreasing the amount of DHT leads to increased hair regrowth and slower hair loss. Hair growth in other parts of the body is not affected by finasteride. It works by preventing testosterone from breaking down into DHT, the hormone that is thought to cause male pattern baldness. You can get this medication with a prescription from your GP.
Available in tablet form, finasteride is designed for long-term use. You may not see any significant results until you’ve been taking the product continuously for a few months. Men who have used finasteride to treat hair loss have reported an increase in the number of hairs, as well as improvement in hair quality. Keep in mind that finasteride only works if you keep taking it. If you stop using finasteride, the hair you’ve regrown will eventually fall out.
Hair transplants – Surgery
There are two common types of hair transplant surgery available on the market: FUT and FUE. There are other types, involving stem cells and other therapies, but they are more experimental.
- FUT stands for follicular unit transplantation and is also known as strip surgery. This involves removing a piece of skin, dividing it under a microscope into individual groupings of follicular units, and then transplanting them into the recipient area.
- FUE stands for follicular unit excision. Rather than a strip, FUE involves individual follicular extraction in which follicles are removed within a small circular punch that is less than a millimeter in diameter.
Hair transplants are quite expensive, and suitability for the surgery can depend on how much hair is available, usually at the back of the head. Also, all surgery carries risks of infection and there is an associated downtime. However, the results are evident quite quickly and this type of surgery has become popular amongst the rich and famous.
The best course of action before deciding how to handle any of the symptoms of hair loss, whether they are psychological or physical, is to see your GP – preferably one that specialises in men’s health and is well versed in all aspects of hair loss and its related issues. An experienced men’s health doctor will help you to make an informed decision about what options are best for you as an individual.