Fortunately, most people who experience hair loss are among the 80 million men and women who are diagnosed with male and female pattern hair loss, a condition simple to diagnose and easy to treat. Extensive diagnostic work-ups for these easily recognized conditions are usually not necessary. However, there are other potential causes of hair which must also be evaluated before treatment is recommended. Health professionals who can give you advice and treatment on hair loss include:
Doctors first review your medical history and will request a physical examination of the scalp or skin where hair loss occurs. A scalp examination itself can help determine the cause of hair loss. Your doctor may also ask questions about the types of medications you're taking. Sometimes hair loss is a side effect of certain drugs, such as those that treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure. Women with mild to moderate hair thinning who are otherwise healthy (with normal menstrual cycles and fertility history), are usually not referred for testing to diagnose hair loss.
If initial examinations indicate that hair loss may be due to a condition other than male or female pattern baldness, the doctor may seek the cause using other diagnostic measures. In some cases, an underlying condition may have to be treated. If the reason for your hair loss is not clear, your doctor may do tests to check for a disease that may be causing your hair loss. Medical exams used to diagnose the cause(s) of hair loss include:
Blood tests - Blood tests may include testing for a specific condition, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism).
Pull test - During a pull test, several dozen hairs are gently pulled to see how many come out to determine the stage of the shedding process and can help diagnose or rule out telogen effluvium.
Punch biopsy - When a diagnosis is difficult to confirm, especially in the case of alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, your doctor may perform a punch biopsy. During this test, the doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of your skin's deeper layers.
Screening tests - Your doctor may perform tests to determine if you should be diagnosed with another medical condition that causes hair loss, such as thyroid disease, diabetes or lupus. Women with irregular menstrual cycles, continued episodes of acne, or too much body hair (hirsutism), may undergo testing for a class of hormones called androgens, including testosterone.
Skin scrapings - During a skin scraping, samples taken from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp can help verify whether an infection is causing hair loss.
There are ways to treat hair loss. In fact, doctors have learned that not every hair loss case is the same and different medications and procedures sometimes need to be changed often. This is one reason why information is the key to combating hair loss. To learn more about how doctors current treat hair loss, keep reading. We'll cover common and effective hair loss strategies, including organic hair loss treatment, in the Treating Hair Loss section that follows.