The average person loses about 100 hairs per day. There is no cure for baldness, or alopecia. There are, however, ways to slow the loss of hair and encourage new growth. These treatments can include oral medication, ointments or creams, and surgery. Physicians are reluctant to use the same oral medications for female patients as prescribed to male patients unless the doctor knows the woman’s hair loss is due to a hormonal imbalance, according to AmericanHairLoss.org.
Minoxidil is a nonprescription drug, available over the counter as foam or liquid that is rubbed into the scalp twice a day. Minoxidil is available in a 2 percent solution or a 5 percent solution; minoxidil is safe for female patients. Patients taking minoxidil may notice a reduction in hair loss, growth of new hair or both. New hair growth stops after the patient discontinues the minoxidil. Side effects may include irritation of the scalp.
Finasteride is a prescription pill that reduces male pattern baldness. Hair growth stops when the patient no longer takes finasteride. Women of child-bearing age should not ingest finasteride, nor should they touch broken or crushed tables due to the risk of birth defects in male fetuses.
Corticosteroids may be injected monthly into the scalp for most effective hair growth in cases of alopecia areata; pills are also sometimes used. Corticosteroid ointments are also available but they are less effective.
Anthralin is a thick, tarry substance that is applied to the hair daily and then rinsed off at night. Typically prescribed for psoriasis, anthralin ointment or cream can be used to grow hair for patients suffering from alopecia areata.
Hair transplants are available for those patients who do not respond to medicines. A cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist takes tiny plugs, each containing a few strands of hair, from the sides of the patient’s scalp and transplants them into the areas of thin hair. This treatment may have to be repeated as hair loss continues over time.
Scalp Reduction Surgery
Scalp reduction surgery literally reduces the amount of scalp. Balding areas are surgically removed and replaced by stretching hair-filled scalp in its place. Bald spots can also be folded over into a flap.
Spironolactone is usually prescribed to treat hypertension and to reduce the amount of fluid in the body, but it does block the class of hormones responsible for hair loss, androgens.
Cimetidine is used to treat hirsutism in women, a condition in which one symptom is excess facial hair, and is showing promise in the treatment of hair loss in women. Men should not take cimetidine because doses high enough to cause hair growth in men can cause feminization.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Naturally occurring estrogen and progesterone block dihydrotestosterone, known to cause nontraumatic hair loss. Hormone replacement therapy pills and creams are given to a woman at menopause to make up for the loss of these hormones.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills decrease the amount of androgens produced by a woman and can be used to treat alopecia.
Lynn Hetzler has been a writer since 2000. She was editor in chief and head writer for the online publication Eye on Cameraware. She owns a computer store offering repair, websites, instruction, and more. Hetzler is a certified medical assistant with experience in oncology, laboratory testing and protocol writing.