There are many causes for hair thinning and hair loss. Your dermatologist can help determine the exact cause and, in turn, help develop the appropriate treatment plan.
The most common type of hair loss, called androgenetic hair loss (alopecia), is also known as male pattern and female pattern hair loss (also alopecia). Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss of any type.
Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is inherited and dependent on certain hormones (androgens) to happen. AGA is where men’s hair tends to thin out and they lose hair in the front corners of the forehead, top of head, and crown of scalp.
In women, female pattern hair loss produces a generalized thinning all over the head to where the scalp becomes visible. AGA is a cosmetic concern and also produces significant psychological and psychosocial stress in those who are losing their hair.
Currently, there are two FDA-approved treatments for androgenetic alopecia. For men, there are topical minoxidil and oral finasteride. There is one FDA-approved treatment for AGA in women, topical minoxidil. Unfortunately, neither works perfectly.
The good news
There is a new treatment for AGA, not yet FDA-approved, called platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and it is producing some very compelling results in some patients without any adverse side effects. PRP is a blood plasma concentration of a patient’s own platelets, growth factors and cytokines.
PRP is not new. It has been used in various medical applications for over 20 years. It has been a favorite of orthopedic surgeons to assist in the body’s own regenerative repair of joints and tendons.
Other studies suggest PRP can work well in soft tissue injuries and in cases of degenerative bone disease. Oral surgeons and plastic surgeons have used it to promote healing. In my dermatology practice, I have successfully used PRP to treat aging skin, wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes and, as reported in this article, for the treatment of hair loss.
There are hundreds of professional athletes who have successfully been treated with PRP for sports injuries. Some well-known athletes who have been treated with PRP include Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Derick Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, David Ortiz, Sidney Rice, Bartolo Colon, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, just to name a few.
What is PRP?
A small amount of the patient’s own blood is collected and spun down in a centrifuge. This results in a layer that is rich in platelets, growth factors and cytokines. This layer is collected and mixed with calcium carbonate, which causes an additional release of growth factors and cytokines from the platelets.
This rich mixture of the patient’s own platelets, growth factors and cytokines is then injected back into the patient’s targeted area to enhance tissue healing and regeneration. It is both safe and natural. I tell patients PRP is “just you, helping you.”
This rich mixture of the patient’s own platelets, growth factors and cytokines can also stimulate hair growth in cases of AGA. There have been numerous reports of successfully treating hair loss with PRP. Recently, Dr. Mysore et al. reported a study of 60 patients, 49 men and 11 women, ages 25-45.
In this study, the participants were injected with PRP approximately every six weeks for a total of four sessions. Remarkably, 70 percent of the participants reported good to very good regrowth. Only 15 percent of the participants had no regrowth at all. In fact, 36 percent of the participant had “very good to excellent” regrowth.
PRP is a simple and safe procedure to treat male and female pattern hair loss. The procedure has been used hundreds of times without any major side effects. PRP can be used as a solo treatment for hair loss or used in combination with other hair loss treatments.
Although not yet FDA-approved for the treatment of androgenetic hair loss, successful reports are mounting, and the approval may be coming in the not-too-distant future. Until then, many people are trying PRP “off-label” to treat hair loss.
Of course, more studies need to be conducted to confirm these early, hopeful reports. Although PRP may not be the perfect treatment or cure for hair loss, it does give doctors another treatment option, and that is always welcomed.
If you have tried other treatments for male or female pattern hair loss without good results, talk to your dermatologist about participating in a PRP trial for AGA. You only have your hair to lose!
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations.