Going bald!

As I age, my hair is gradually falling out. I am slowly losing my hair since I was about 40 years old. Now, at 46 years of age, the half of my head is bald. How can we – bald men – deal with the problem?

Baldness, or long-term hair loss, can lower one’s self-esteem and even prevent one from living life to the fullest. Even if hair loss or balding is hereditary, as long as the person take action early on, there are remedies to slow this process or even completely reverse the hair loss and regrow most or even all of the lost hair.

There are many types of hair loss, also known as alopecia. Hair loss can either be temporary, where all hair can be restored after full recovery from the cause of hair loss, or long-term (due to genetic factors).

Temporary, sudden hair loss in large amounts, or Telogen effluvium, may be due to mental or physical shock due to changes in the normal hair growth cycle. This condition entails a large amount of hair going into the Telogen, or resting, phase of hair growth all at once, and hair shedding occurs. This condition is completely reversible because the hair follicles have not been damaged. Recovery should be spontaneous once the cause of hair loss is removed or taken care of. Some circumstances where Telogen effluvium can occur include: when under a huge amount of stress, poor diet (iron deficiencies for those who intake less red meat or women during menstruation), intake of certain medications, chemotherapy, imbalance of hormones, physical trauma in a car crash, post-surgery, etc.

Androgenic alopecia, which is hereditary and more commonly known as male or female pattern hair loss that occurs over time, is perhaps the most common type of hair loss for men. For women, the cause is usually hormonal: changes in hormone levels (e.g. during menopause, pregnancy, thyroid conditions, or the stopping or starting of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy) can cause temporary hair loss in women.

Finasteride (trade name: Propecia) is the medication approved by FDA for the treatment of male pattern hair loss, which you can only obtain with a prescription from your physician. The medication strength is 1mg, and it is taken daily for affected men, ages 18 to 41. Men noted an increase in hair growth as early as 3 months after starting the finasteride treatment. Clinical investigators observed increased hair growth in 65% of men receiving finasteride and 37% of men receiving placebo. The most common adverse effects have included decreased libido (sexual desire), erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorder, and decreased volume of ejaculate. Propecia is expensive because there is no generic alternative available. However, a much cheaper alternative does exist: some doctors would prescribe Finasteride 5 mg (generic of brand name, Proscar), and instruct the patient to cut a tablet into fifths, and tell the patient to take 1/5 tablet each time (equivalent to 1 mg finasteride).

One product on the market, also approved by the FDA, that helps retard hair loss in both men and women is minoxidil, which is sold over-the-counter under the brand name Rogaine. The strength is as 5% for men and 2% for women. Rogaine is most effective for men who has most of their hair loss at the top (or crown) of their scalps, while not being very effective for men who have a receding hair line in the frontal area of their heads. Rogaine is good for women because women tend to have a diffuse thinning of hair on the crown of their scalps.

Another solution is hair transplant surgery. The procedure involves transplanting hair from donor areas of your own scalp to bald or thinning areas. The donor area in men is usually the fringe, or the back or sides of the men’s scalp, because this area usually have permanent hairs that are still growing. This solution is only plausible if the affected male has enough hairs in the donor region for transplant to needed areas. Very few women are suitable for hair transplant surgery, it would be best to consult a doctor to see if this solution is suitable for her situation. Some surgeons may suggest trying non-surgical procedures to treat hair loss before taking this step, or they may recommend the use of Rogaine before and after the transplant procedure. Be sure to consult a doctor to find the solution most suitable for your condition.

In addition to taking these medications or procedures to restore your hair growth, sustaining a diet that supports healthy hair growth is also very imporant. Omega-3 fatty acids are probably the most important nutrient you need to have healthy and beautiful hair. These fatty acids can be found in fish, flax seeds, etc. Proteins, vitamins, and minerals (such as iron and zinc) are also very important to your diet to having healthy growing hair.

I have started taking vitamins and will see if anything changes. How about you?

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