Getting to the Root of Hair Loss in Young People
Experts recommend proper assessment at first signs of hair loss
While hair loss at any age can be upsetting, it can be particularly hard for adolescents and young adults. In the age of social media and selfies, premature hair loss can wreak havoc on young people's self-esteem.
Since hair loss doesn't commonly occur at a young age, hair restoration physicians encourage those affected by hair loss to seek help at the first signs of a problem. With proper diagnosis and early intervention, hair loss can be stabilized and in some cases treated with proven medical or surgical therapies.
"We initially thought male and female patterns of hair loss - specifically those linked to hereditary causes - were the most frequent contributors to hair loss, but we have seen more cases recently in teenagers and younger patients in their 20s," said David Perez-Meza, MD, FISHRS of Benalmadena, Malaga, Spain and moderator of a workshop on managing difficult cases in young patients at the ISHRS 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting. "We attribute this rise to a multitude of issues such as crash diets, supplements, hormonal imbalances, food, medications, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune diseases and stress among others."
Dr. Perez-Meza recommends those suffering from hair loss first seek professional advice from a physician specializing in hair loss for a consultation and evaluation to determine its cause and recommend an appropriate treatment.
"Understandably, teenagers and young adults who struggle with hair loss want their hair back as soon as possible but often have unrealistic hairline and density goals," said Dr. Perez-Meza. "For that reason, they look to hair restoration surgery as the way of fulfilling their idealized hair pattern.
"I tell my young patients that ... most of the time hair transplant surgery is not the first or best option for them. Every case is different, which is why we customize our approach to treating hair loss in young people and help manage their expectations."
Once the type of hair loss is determined, Dr. Perez-Meza noted there are different treatment options available.
For example, if a young male's hair loss is diagnosed as male pattern hair loss (or genetic hair loss), specific doses of finasteride and minoxidil may help, as well as low-level laser therapy. In many cases, a combination of these FDA approved therapies has better results than one therapy.
Adolescents and young adults with male or female pattern hair loss are typically not good candidates for hair restoration surgery. A member survey conducted by the ISHRS shows that in 2014 only 4% of male and female surgical patients treated by ISHRS members worldwide were under 20 years old.
Source: The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, 12/7/15