About 10% to 20% of the patients I see who are concerned with hair loss are female. For a woman, more so than for a man, hair is a defining point of personal style. For a female, losing hair is traumatic experience. Most of the women I see are close to tears when discussing their daily struggle covering up their thinning hair. Adding to the problem is the fact that many females feel they have been "brushed off" by their family doctors and dermatologists, who make them feel like they are worrying about something insignificant. Of course, what these physicians don't seem to realize is that the psychological damage caused by hair loss and feeling unattractive can be just as devastating as any serious disease, and in fact, can take an emotional toll that directly affects physical health.
The following is an actual letter sent to me by a woman. The letter expresses the anguish that I see in so many women who are experiencing hair loss.
"I am a 33-year-old female who began noticing gradual loss of hair 10 years ago. As time progressed, it became more noticeable and undeniable. I found myself trying everything possible to diminish it. As my condition worsened, I began to run out of options and began adjusting my activities accordingly (i.e. I would avoid public pools and the beach). In my opinion, this is one of the worst forms of mental torture a woman could experience. After seeing several doctors, they concluded that my hair loss was due to some chronic physical problems I had, but offered no help. My self-esteem had all but been destroyed, until I met Dr. Robert Jones, of Oakville, Ontario.
I came across his website on Yahoo, and after reviewing it, called him for a telephone consultation. I ended up booking a hair transplant procedure with him shortly after. I was discouraged at first, after returning home, as I had tiny blood dots all over my head. I knew I needed to be patient.
After a week, my stitches came out, but Dr. Jones cautioned me not to expect anything for three months. I would have my husband check out my scalp once in a while to see how things were progressing I would say that this anticipation was the worst part; after living in torment for so long, you can't help but feel like an anxious child on Christmas eve. At the first signs of growth, I felt a joy I had not felt in a long time. I was ecstatic!
It has now been about a year since the procedure and my hair is much fuller than it was. Of course, it is not as full as it was before all this started, but it is a big improvement. It was enough to restore my confidence and feel good about myself. I no longer felt like I had to hide and miss out on the many things I had avoided in the past. The renewal of my self-esteem gave me the courage to return to the life I thought I would never have again. Four months after the procedure, I found a new full-time job and feel great.
If I had not gone to see Dr. Jones, I would still be in a rut, hiding from the world. He is a skilled physician and a kind person who will provide you with as much help as humanly and medically possible. I would advise any woman to not suffer in silence. There is help out there and people who care. It's really just a phone call away."
Thinning and balding are mistakenly thought to be strictly male phenomena. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 40% of women have visible hair loss by the time they are age 40. And, about 80% of females develop some recession of their hair lines as well, as part of the normal maturation process.
The American Hair Loss Association recognizes that hair loss in women is a serious life-altering condition that can no longer be ignored.
Female Pattern Balding (FPB) - A pattern on its own
There was a time when hair loss in females was classified as Androgenic Alopecia (MPB). However, we now know that female hair loss has its own causes and is classified as Female Pattern Baldness (FPB). This broader term encompasses many causes, some of which are linked to testosterone and some of which are not. The cause of Female Pattern Baldness is still not completely understood, but we know that many other types of enzymes, as well as hormone receptors and blockers, may be at work in women.
One clue that there is a true difference between male and female balding is the pattern in which the hair loss occurs.
Female Pattern Baldness occurs all around the top of the head, and it's diffuse, whereas men lose it on the temple, the crown, and the bald spot in the back. Not coincidentally, the hormone and enzyme receptor sites are also different in varying areas of the scalp - another reason doctors now believe the loss patterns are caused by different precipitating factors.
Another important difference is that while balding in men is almost always the result of a genetic predisposition coupled with age, in women, it can happen at any time. In addition, for women, underlying medical conditions can also be the cause of hair loss, even when true Androgenic Alopecia is the diagnosis.
Often these women are also suffering with polycystic ovary syndrome and sometimes their hair loss is the only obvious sign. As well, autoimmune disorders can cause a diffuse thinning in female hair.
Still others can develop a temporary hair shedding problem known as Telogen Effluvium - a change in the natural hair growth system that often follows childbirth, crash dieting, surgery, or a traumatic emotional event.
Also, thyroid disorders, anemia, even chronic illness or the use of certain medications, can also cause hair loss in women, and these problems often go undiagnosed.
When I first see female patients, I always rule out any possible medical problems before considering a transplant.