Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Diagnosis of Hair Loss
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Q: Why did you write another book on hair loss? — K.L., Greenville NY

A: Hair Loss and Replacement for Dummies is the first book that we have written that is specifically geared for the lay public. Besides hair restoration, it covers a wide range of topics including: the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions that can cause hair loss, tips on hair care, information on hair systems, and a number of other topics not stressed in our other books.

Our prior books, The Patient’s Guide to Hair Restoration and The Guide to Hair Restoration focused on medical treatments and surgical hair restoration. Although very easy to understand, they are most helpful for someone that already has a basic understanding of hair loss or that had a consultation.

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Q: Didn’t you do free consults in the past? — N.F., Bronxville, NY

A: Yes. It had been in response to the policy of the larger chains. Patients coming to our practice are evaluated by a board certified dermatologist, trained in diagnosing the causes of your hair loss with expertise in both medical and surgical management. Our consults are not just screens for surgery.

Read more information on becoming a new patient on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website. If you are ready for a hair loss or hair transplant evaluation, click here to schedule an evaluation with the doctor.

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Q: I have thinning hair and have heard about Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for hair loss. I know that I can either buy a machine over the internet or go to a doctor’s office or medical spa for treatments. Which one should I do?

A: The advantage of the in-office LLLT systems are that the units are more powerful and that the delivery of the energy is the same each time. The treatment is also not dependent upon the patient having to remember to do the treatment and does not require the person to spend 15 minutes each time concentrating on using the hand-held machine correctly. It also had the important advantage of requiring an initial evaluation by a physician who can diagnosis the hair loss and make sure that it is the genetic type that may respond to this type of therapy. And the effectiveness of the treatment can more readily be monitored over time.

The disadvantage of the office- or medispa- based system is that the treatments are significantly more costly than the home machine and require periodic visits over an extended period of time – a nuisance for working people, or for those who do not live close to a facility offering this service.

The advantage of the hand-held system is that it is much less expensive than the office based machine and it is much more convenient to do the treatment at home than to go to a doctor’s office several times a week. There may also be a potential advantage for patients that still have a significant amount of hair. In these people, the hand-held system (that is able to part the hair) may allow the laser light to more effectively reach the scalp.

The major disadvantage of the hand-held device seems to be with patient compliance as people get tired of having to run the instrument through their hair for 15 minutes several times a week. It is also hard for the person himself to judge if the treatments are working, how to taper the treatments and if, and when, to stop.

Read more about Laser Therapy

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Q: Why is the consult fee more for diffuse thinning than for a regular visit? — B.F., Altherton, CA

A: Diffuse hair loss, more common in women, can be the result of a number of underlying medical conditions and therefore it usually requires an extended medical evaluation.

If you are a male or female with obvious diffuse thinning from androgenetic alopecia (common baldness), or if you have patterned hair loss where the diagnosis is straightforward, the fee is less because an extensive evaluation is not required.

Please visit our Hair Transplant Costs & Consultation Fees page for more information.

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Q: Can stress accelerate hair loss? I am 25 and there is balding on my dad’s side of the family. I never had any thinning or hair loss till this year. I guess you can say I’ve been under a lot of stress. When I did notice shortly after my 25th birthday I started stressing even more, which led to more hair loss. It is thinner up front and it is thin on top. I have heard of some hair docs mapping your head for miniaturization, do you do this too? — E.W., Miami, FL

A: Yes. The presence of miniaturization (decreased hair diameter) in the areas of thinning allows us to distinguish between hair loss due to heredity (i.e. androgenetic alopecia) — in which hair progressively decreases in diameter under the influence of DHT — and other causes. The degree of miniaturization can be assessed using a hand-held instrument called a densitometer.

The pattern of hair loss and the family history are also important in the diagnosis.

Stress more commonly produces telogen effluvium, a generalized shedding that is not associated with miniaturization and is often reversible without treatment.

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Q: Over the past three months, my hair seems to be thinning more on one side. Is it common in male pattern hair loss for it to be more on one side? I had a lot of stress about three months ago and have heard that this could be the cause. Is this possible? Should I use Rogaine to treat it? — B.R., Landover, MD

A: Regardless of the cause, hair loss is usually not perfectly symmetric. This applies to male pattern hair loss as well.

In your case, it is important to distinguish between telogen effluvium (shedding that can be due to stress) and hereditary or common baldness. The three month interval from the stressful period to the onset of hair loss is characteristic telogen effluvium, but you may have androgenetic alopecia as an underlying problem.

The two conditions are differentiated by identifying club hairs in telogen effluvium and miniaturized hair in androgenetic alopecia. In addition, a hair pull will be positive in telogen effluvium (when a clump of hair is grasped with the fingers, more than five hairs pull out of the scalp at one time) and will be negative in common baldness. The hair loss diagnosis can be made by a dermatologist.

Hair cuts do not affect either condition.

Rogaine (Minoxidil) is only effective in androgenetic hair loss and only marginally so. Finasteride is the preferred treatment if your hair loss is genetic when it is early and a hair transplant may be indicated if the hair loss progresses.

Shedding from telogen effluvium is reversible and does not require specific treatment.

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Q: Dr. Bernstein, I was reading about a densitometer on your website. What is it and what is it actually used for? — Z.A., Westchester, NY

A: The hair densitometer was introduced to hair restoration surgeons by Dr. Rassman in 1993. It is a small, portable, instrument that has a magnifying lens and an opening of 10mm2.

To use it, the doctor clips the hair short (~ 1-mm) and the instrument is then placed on the scalp. The doctor counts the total number of hairs in the field, looks at the number of hairs per follicular unit and assesses the diameter of the hair, looking in particular for abnormal levels of miniaturization (decreased hair shaft diameter caused by the effects of DHT).

The densitometer can increase the accuracy of the diagnosis of genetic hair loss by picking up early miniaturization.

It can also better assess a person’s donor hair supply, thus helping to determine which patients are candidates for a hair transplant.

Densitometry has helped us define the conditions of diffuse patterned and unpatterned hair loss (DPA and DUPA) and help to refine the diagnosis of hair loss in women.

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Hair loss has a variety of causes. Diagnosis and treatment is best determined by a board-certified dermatologist. We offer both in-person and online photo consults.

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