Hair Loss in Women: When Is Hair Transplantation the Optimal Treatment?

Women today are likely to be proactive in matters affecting their health, appearance and self-image. Good nutrition, regular exercise, regularly scheduled personal and professional physical examinations and knowledge of her own body are all part of a woman's unwillingness to accept preventable or treatable forfeits of health and appearance.

Hair loss is a cosmetic decrement that is increasingly unacceptable for women who are proactive about their appearance and self-image. Although hair loss tends to be regarded by the public as something that happens mainly to men, it occurs in many women-and perhaps in most women over a lifetime of 60 or more years. Also see About Hair Loss.

Loss of hair does not occur only in older (post-menopausal) women. It occurs with relatively high frequency in women who are pre-menopausal, even in women in their 20s and 30s.

What Causes Hair Loss in Women?
For more information, see Female Hair Loss and Pattern Baldness in Women
and Other Causes of Hair Loss.

Just as in men, hair loss in women often has a genetic basis and a family history of hair loss in female relatives. Women with a family history of hair loss may be especially alert for any indications of thinning hair on their own scalps. At the first sign of hair loss, the woman may begin to seek a definitive treatment to (1) halt hair loss, and (2) restore lost hair. If medical treatment to halt hair thinning is ineffective, the woman may turn to hair transplantation as a means of restoring hair in areas of hair loss.

Is Hair Transplantation the Best Option?
One of the first questions to answer before hair transplantation is considered is this: What is causing the woman's hair loss? As discussed in the sections Female Hair Loss and Pattern Baldness in Women and Other Causes of Hair Loss, hereditary female-pattern androgenetic alopecia is one of many causes of hair loss in women. Not all causes of hair loss are optimally treated by hair transplantation, and for some causes hair transplantation is contraindicated. Full and careful examination by a physician hair restoration specialist will confirm a cause of hair loss and rule out other causes.

If hereditary female-pattern hair loss is confirmed as the cause of hair thinning, it still must be determined what form a treatment will be optimal for this individual patient. Whether, or not, an individual woman with hair loss is a good candidate for hair transplantation is a decision influenced by many factors. These may include:

  • Family history of female-pattern hair loss-hair-loss patterns, totality of hair loss, age of onset of hair loss in female relatives;
  • Age of onset of hair loss in the patient;
  • Progression of hair loss;
  • Pattern of hair loss;
  • Current and probable future availability of donor hair for use in transplantation ("donor hair" is taken from areas of the scalp not affected by androgenetic alopecia);
  • Results of any medical treatments used to slow or halt hair loss, or to stimulate new hair growth; and,
  • Expectations of the patient for eventual outcome of hair transplantation.

The patient's expectations for outcome are especially important, and must be discussed thoroughly with the physician hair restoration specialist. Rational expectations for outcome must be agreed upon by both patient and physician before hair transplantation is undertaken. For example, a rational expectation is for significantly improved appearance and elimination of visibly thinning hair. A less rational expectation is to "turn back the clock" to achieve full hair density as if no hair had ever been lost. Expectations for outcome of hair transplantation must be consistent with results most likely to be achieveable in an individual patient. In the individual patient, optimal results are achieved in the context of the patient's family history, medical history, pattern of hair loss, progression of hair loss, and cost of treatment.

Being Proactive About Female Hair Loss
Women's attitudes have changed, and social viewpoints have changed, regarding women's health and well-being issues. There was a time-not too long in the past-when hair loss in women was one of the subjects that were off-limits for women to talk about in public. Men "went bald" because hair loss "ran in the family". That female hair loss could also "run in the family" was not understood. Hair loss in women could be expected as women aged, and occasionally in association with pregnancy. Other causes were unrecognized and better left alone, in the realm of mysterious "female problems".

Causes of hair loss are well understood today, in both women and men. Treatments are available for most of the causes of hair loss, and women are proactively taking advantage of them.

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