Education, Health

Hair Loss: What You Need to Know Before Going to the Doctor


July 24th, 2018
hair-loss-doctor-visit

Hair loss is scary. It can make us think that there is something really wrong with our body.

It also changes how we look which can affect our self confidence. The internet is also scary.

Type in almost any symptom and you may see the words cancer or lupus.

In actuality, almost all of those cases the cause is not deadly and there are helpful treatments.

Doctors and nurses see patients every day for hair loss. But, before you make an appointment, there are some questions you should be ask yourself.

Has my hair changed significantly?

Hair changes with cut, style, color, and exposure to weather and chemicals. These changes come and go all the while the healthy hair remains mostly the same.

On the other hand if you look in the mirror and see bald patches or your hair looks drastically thinner, flatter, or just different than a picture from year ago, then you may have a hair loss issue.

Everyone loses hair every day and that is normal.

People may feel like they are losing more hair based on how much hair coming out in the shower, on the towel or while brushing but the overall head of hair remains unchanged.

The point is, look at the big picture and not just how much hair you see in your brush.

Color, heat, chemicals

Do not waste your co-pay and appointment to be told by your clinician to stop using color, heat, or chemicals on your hair.

These practices are sure to break your hair and make it fall out easier. Stop using these for a 3-6 months.

If you are still losing your hair, then you should make an appointment to make sure something else is going on with your scalp.

Am I taking my medicine correctly?

Hypothyroidism and anemia due to low iron are common causes of hair loss.

People forget and sometimes all together stop taking their medicine for long periods of time which could have a negative effect on your body and hair.

If you have stopped or are missing doses, make a plan to take your medicine regularly, wait a month, and see if your hair loss improves.

You may want to call in to your clinician and request a blood test to check your thyroid or iron levels.

Weight loss, diet change, stress and other medications can have an effect on these levels and your body may be reacting to that change.

Is the medicine I am taking causing my hair loss?

It is not just chemotherapy that causes hair loss. Other, more common medicines can cause your hair to fall out too.

Here are some common offenders: ACE inhibitors and beta blockers for high blood pressure, gout medicine, seizure medicines, NSAIDs, birth control pills, and SSRI for depression and anxiety.

Despite this list of common medicines that theoretically can cause hair loss, in everyday practice this is an uncommon cause of hair loss.

Do I have something more serious?

Some types of hair loss should not be put off.

Scalps with scales, pimples, redness, patches of hair missing, pain or rashes on other parts of the body should be seen within a week or two.

These symptoms would indicate that you could have a condition that needs to be treated with prescription medicine and it likely will not get better without it. It cannot be stressed enough that the internet is a scary place and should be used with caution.

No search or symptom checker can take the place of a practitioner listening to your story and providing you with an examination.

How should you prepare to see your clinician?

First, make an appointment specific for hair loss. Do not make an appointment for high blood pressure, diabetes, and hair loss because hair loss will be of the lowest priority and may get neglected.

Second, before your appointment gather photos to show your clinician.

Pictures of how your hair used to look, of how much hair is coming out in your brush, of over the counter products you have tried, and of any bald patches you have found.

Third, write down when this started, the treatments you have tried, your current medications along with your current and past conditions.

Make sure to include a goal for treatment and any questions you might have about hair loss, treatment, and conditions that can cause or make hair loss worse.

What should I expect at my appointment?

A medical exam will likely include looking at your scalp with the naked eye and possibly with a magnification glass.

Your clinician will likely gently pull your hair to see if it comes out easily and also check your scalp for lesions, patches, pimples, or plaques.

They may also feel your neck and look at the rest of your skin including fingernails, elbows, knees and feet.

After the visit you will likely need to give some blood. You may also be prescribed a cream, ointment, shampoo or pill depending on how your scalp looks.

Depending on the cause and severity of your condition, you should expect your condition to start to improve anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Hair loss is never a quick fix so you will need to practice patience and be prepared to try two, three or four different treatments over a year’s time before you notice a significant difference.

What diagnosis will I receive?

The most common reason for hair loss in women is called female pattern hair loss (FPHL).

In fact, nearly 20% of women suffer from FPHL.

Women who have this condition notice thinning hair on the front and top of their head without any scarring, redness, or scaling.

It often starts after menopause and progresses slowly.

This may sound similar to male pattern baldness but FPHL is unfortunately much less understood by scientists.

Some scientists have found links between conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance, and other hormonal problems. But the true cause of FPHL is unknown.

How will my provider diagnose FPHL?

Doctors and nurses can usually diagnose this condition just by looking at your scalp.

Biopsies and blood tests are only helpful to make sure that the hair loss is not due to other conditions.

Unfortunately, this makes treatment difficult. Usually clinicians recommend over the counter hair treatments as a first line therapy.

After trying the first line therapy, some patients move on to prescription medicine that can alter their hair follicle receptors and hormones.

However, these medicines do not have a lot of science proving that they work and so many women opt for other over the counter cream, lotion, and shampoo preparations that potentially have less side effects.

Some clinicians may refer patients to a dermatologist who specializes in skin or an endocrinologist who specializes in hormones.

Hair Loss Information & Solutions are common, distressing condition that is often not well understood.

It is usually not dangerous but can be associated with more serious conditions so patients who have hair loss should be seen by a clinician after they have make lifestyle changes.

Visits with a clinician should be focused and accompanied by notes about onset, treatments, and goals for treatment as well as photographic evidence of hair loss.

Hair loss takes time to diagnose and treat and should be cared for with patience. This post is not meant to replace medical advice.

Author: Samuel Logan, APN BC-FNP



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