Bernstein Medical Center for Hair Restoration - Hair Loss Consultation

Hair Loss Consultation

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What are the chances that I will go bald? How bald will I be? Can I know for sure? These are among the most common questions we get from patients in our hair loss consultations. Despite extensive knowledge about the mechanisms and causes of androgenetic alopecia (common baldness), the answers to these questions have been a bit hazy. New research has sharpened the focus on the genetic mix that results in hair loss and has enabled more accurate predictions. A study published in February 2017 in the journal PLoS Genetics identified over 250 gene locations newly linked to hair loss. Using this information, researchers more accurately predicted severe balding compared to previous methods.

Background

We know that susceptibility to hair loss is driven by genetics. One in two men in their 50s experience some degree of balding, with that proportion increasing to over 60% of men aged 60 and over. We also know that one of the most important genes in hair loss, called the androgen receptor (AR) gene, is located on the X chromosome. Outside of that, knowledge of the precise genetic makeup resulting in baldness is sparse and there is wide variation in balding patterns. Some genetic tests, such as the HairDx test, have been developed to predict a patient’s risk of balding, but lack the ability to determine its severity. To date, the best method for predicting the extent of future hair loss is to have an experienced physician take a personal and family history and perform a physical examination that includes an assessment of miniaturization of scalp hair.

Developing a more thorough understanding of the complex genetic relationships that result in hair loss will be important in clinical practice as these relationships may help predict future hair loss and guide methods of treatment.

The Study

Researchers selected a pool of more than 52,000 men with male pattern baldness from UK Biobank. This is a massive database of over half a million people aged 40-69 years with information accumulated from 2006 to 2010. This pool was over four times the size of the previously largest hair loss study. Researchers applied a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to a cohort of about 40,000 men and identified 287 statistically important gene locations (loci) linked to varying degrees of baldness — more than 35 times the eight genetic signals found in the previous largest study.

Using this set of 247 loci on non-sex, or autosomal, chromosomes and 40 loci on the X chromosome, the researchers analyzed the remaining 12,000 men for predictive patterns. The results indicated that the predictive value of using this set of gene loci was 0.78 for severe hair loss, 0.68 for moderate hair loss, and 0.61 for slight hair loss. When the subject’s age was added, the predictive score improved to 0.79 for severe hair loss, 0.70 for moderate hair loss, and 0.61 for slight hair loss. Subjects whose individual scores, based on their genetic makeup, were below the mid-point of the range of scores were significantly more likely to have no hair loss than severe hair loss. By contrast, almost 60% of subjects whose individual scores were in the top 10% of the range of scores were moderate to severely bald.

While the predictions were not extraordinarily accurate – the authors characterized the accuracy as “still relatively crude” – they did show a distinct improvement in predictive accuracy over prior studies.

Summary

Hair loss is a serious concern for many people. Research shows that men with extensive hair loss may experience significant psychosocial impacts such as reduced self-image and reduced social interactions. Some studies have associated baldness with increased risk of prostate cancer and heart disease.

Understanding the complex factors that comprise the genetics of hair loss can help physicians potentially customize treatments based on a patient’s genetic profile and their risk of balding. Beyond that, diagnosing the potential severity of hair loss may help doctors get a head start on treating what could be related life-threatening conditions.

With large databases like UK Biobank, researchers can now drill down into this information and develop increasingly clear, highly granular data sets that can identify complex systems and potentially lead to improved treatments.

References

Hagenaars SP, Hill WD, Harris SE, Ritchie SJ, Davies G, Liewald DC, et al. (2017) Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS Genet 13(2): e1006594. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006594

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Dr. Bernstein in Japanese Magazine
Dr. Bernstein and ARTAS Robot

Dr. Bernstein’s pioneering work in developing FUT and FUE hair transplant procedures has influenced hair restoration physicians across the globe. Recently, his use of the ARTAS System for robotic FUE has grabbed international attention.

Yomitime, a Japanese web-zine, recently featured Dr. Bernstein and his foray into robotic hair restoration. The article describes the “cutting-edge” ARTAS robot, while also covering the basics of Dr. Bernstein’s FUT and FUE procedures.

Patients of Bernstein Medical fly in from around the globe to receive world-class treatment for their hair loss. This past year alone he has treated patients from India, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Israel, the UK and Russia.

For more about visiting our office from abroad, visit Our Patients in the New Patient Information section. Or, to have a consultation with Dr. Bernstein via the internet, visit our Photo Consult page and submit the form.

If you can read Japanese, download the article here.

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Q: I am a 34 year old male and my dermatologist prescribed Propecia for me today. Most of my hair loss is at the hairline, but there is some loss on top as well. It’s not bad, I just want to stay ahead of it. If I get a transplant I want to get it at your clinic, but I will give the Propecia a try first. I am going to be overseas for a couple of months starting this Sunday and I was wondering about the necessity or desirability of having someone measure my hair density prior to starting the Propecia. Would you advise waiting to start the Propecia until I come back in two months and having my density examined at your clinic? — M.R., Great Falls, Virginia

A: I would start Propecia as soon as possible. What is important for a hair transplant is the density in the donor area and this is not affected by Propecia (or minoxidil). Your donor density can be measured anytime at an evaluation prior to surgery. If you want to wait to see the effects of Propecia prior to the hair transplant, you really should wait a year; since growth, if any, can take this long. If you just want to have Propecia on board for the hair restoration procedure, or to make sure you don’t have side effects, then generally a month will do. If you would like to do a photo consult through our website to get some preliminary information about how many grafts you might need, you can do that at your leisure, but start Propecia now since the longer you wait the less effective it will be at regrowing hair.

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Q: I’ve been losing my hair just around the front of my scalp for years, but now it’s bad enough that I need to wear a wig to hide the top and back. Do you transplant women?

A: If you have thinning in such a broad area, most likely your donor area is also thin and you would not be a good candidate for surgery.

An examination can determine this and also determine if there is some other cause of your hair loss other than genetics.

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Q: I am a 47 year old woman with thinning on the top of my scalp for three years. I think I want to go for a comprehensive evaluation for hair loss and know that the doctor may want to take blood tests to help find out the cause of my hair loss. I am not sure if I need to fast before I come in? — R.B., West University Place, TX

A: Fasting is not necessary for a comprehensive evaluation.

The comprehensive diagnosis may include hair pull tests, hair pluck, hair density measurements, anagen telogen ratios, scalp biopsies and laboratory (blood) tests but no pre-test fasting or other preparation is necessary.

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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 am female and thinning can I be a candidate for a Follicular Unit Hair Transplant?

A: If it turns out that you have female pattern hair loss, you may be a candidate a hair transplant, but would need to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in surgical hair restoration.

In the evaluation, you should have your degree of hair loss assessed and donor supply measured, using an instrument called a densitometer, to be certain that you have enough permanent donor hair to meet your desired goals. For more information about hair loss in women, please see the Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Women page of the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website.

If you are thinking about your hair loss and would like to be evaluated, go to the physician consult page to schedule a consultation.

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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: I am 26 years old, have had two successful hair transplants, but am still losing hair in the crown area. The doctor I have worked with told me that he does not do crown work on anyone until they are at least 40 (due to lack of donor area). I have very thick hair and the transplanted area looks as if nothing was lost. Would you do work on someone my age in their crown area if they have enough donor hair? — A.W., Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Although I am hesitant to start with the crown when transplanting a younger person, if you have good coverage on the front and top of your scalp from the first two sessions then extending the hair transplant into your crown may be reasonable. It depends upon your remaining donor supply and an assessment of how bald you will become. I would need to examine you.

If it is likely that you will progress only to a Norwood Class 6, then transplanting your crown can be considered. If you will progress to a Class 7 then you should not since, in the long term, hair that was placed in the crown might be better used for other purposes, such as connecting the transplanted top to receding sides.

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Q: I heard that a smaller per cent of women are candidates for hair transplants compared to men. Is this true?

A: Yes, that is true. Women more commonly have diffuse hair loss where the thinning is all over the scalp. This means that the donor area (the back and sides of the scalp) are thinning as well.

If the donor area is not stable, then there is no point in doing a hair transplant, since the transplanted hair will continue to fall out. Remember, the transplanted hair is no better than the area where is comes from.

On the other hand, women with stable donor areas can be great candidates for surgical hair restoration. The stability of the donor area can be assessed using a procedure called densitometry and should be part of the hair loss evaluation when you see your physician.

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Q: I am a Caucasian female that has experienced hair loss on the sides of my head from the height of the eyebrow to the ear due to traction. The hair loss has been present since my teen years. My job requires me to wear my hair up most of the time. Although I don’t wear it nearly as tight, I seem to continue to lose my hair in the front and on the top of my head. My hair also used to be very thick as a child and is now quite thin. I’m not sure if this is normal or something else is going on, but I am definitely interested in a hair transplant. — M.H., Larchmont, NY

A: It sounds like you are experiencing continued traction alopecia. Unless the underlying cause is corrected (the traction), you can expect to continue to lose your hair. People that have traction alopecia can have thinning even from mild pulling that might not be a problem for others. Once you stop the pulling, it can take up to two years for the hair to return, although there may be permanent hair loss.

Surgical hair restoration is the treatment of choice for permanent hair loss from traction. If you have significant thinning on the sides, you may not be a candidate for hair transplantation since in this procedure we often need to harvest hair from the permanent area in the sides of the scalp as well as the back.

An additional problem (that you allude to) is that you may have underlying female pattern hair loss. This would further complicate the surgical treatment.

A careful examination (including densitometry) can sort these problems out and allow for more specific recommendations.

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Q: What are “Senior Medical Consultants”? — E.W., Miami, FL

A: These are non-medical personnel who wear white coats to give the impression that they have formal medical training. They are actually salespersons and they should immediately identify themselves as such. Although non-medical personnel can help to answer general questions, they should not be examining you and making specific recommendations about your hair transplant procedure. That is the job of your doctor.

When a physician evaluates you and makes recommendations, he or she is responsible for informing you of the risks as well as the potential benefits of your surgery, and is ultimately responsible for your care. They will also have the knowledge to provide you with a balanced view regarding your surgery as well as other treatment options. This is the practice of medicine.

A “consultant” who is being paid to convince people to have a transplant, but who is not actually performing the surgery, does not bear this responsibility and may have a natural tendency to over-sell the procedure. Beware!

Here are some resources about hair loss consultations at Bernstein Medical:

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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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