Hair Loss Treatment: Medicine or Surgery
Nov, 25 2019 | By Dr. Sangay Bhutia (Hair Transplant Specialist in Delhi)
The hunt for the perfect treatment for baldness has been on for a very long time. Cures in the form of oils and herbs have existed for hundreds of years. Medicines, which arrest hair fall, have been around for a few decades as well. However it is only in the last few years that surgical hair transplant procedures have become readily available and accessible for anyone who wants them. New techniques like FUE or Follicular Unit Extraction have meant that people suffering baldness can actually have their full, lustrous mane back. And, the results are completely natural. Unless someone specifically tells you that they have undergone a hair transplant, there is absolutely no way to tell.
Modern hair transplant techniques—FUE, and FUT or Follicular Unit Transplant —are the most advanced surgical ways to correct Androgenetic Alopecia or Male Pattern Baldness. Before we talk about the surgical procedures, let’s understand the non-surgical ones or medication. There are primarily two medicines, which are commonly used for hair loss treatment. The first one is Minoxidil. A topical medicine, Minoxidil lengthens the growth or Anagen phase of the hair cycle. As people grow older, the process of growth and shedding of hair is disrupted. A hormone named DHT or dihydrotestosterone causes the growth phase of the hair cycle to become shorter. DHT affects hair follicles, which over a period of time are unable to grow fully and they progressively become smaller in size and eventually disappear. The process is called miniaturisation. Since Minoxidil lengthens the Anagen phase, lesser number of follicles goes through miniaturisation. The result is fewer follicular units that experience miniaturisation.
Finasteride or Propecia, a drug for hair loss, stops the conversion of testosterone to DHT, the main culprit in hair loss.
However, once genetic hair loss sets in, it is hard to stop it. While medication can arrest hair loss to an extent, it cannot do much about regrowth of hair. Also, medicines are not effective on older patients or those who have already lost too much hair. This is where surgical treatments in the form of hair transplants come in.
Hair transplant, in simple words, is a surgical procedure wherein hair follicles from the DHT-resistant zones of the scalp, are extracted and transplanted onto the bald or balding spots. This results in hair growth on the spots where some or most hair had fallen out permanently. FUE procedures involve extracting hair follicles one by one from the donor areas and transplanting them onto the bald spots, while FUT involves extracting a strip of hair from the donor area, dissecting it into individual follicles, and then transplanting those.
The key difference between medication and surgical treatment is that the results from FUE Hair Transplant or FUT are permanent, whereas patients will have to keep taking the medicine for the results to last. Medication also can’t regrow the hair as surgery does by moving our hair follicles to the bald spots. Patients see full regrowth within a few months to a year tops. The results are permanent in hair transplant because the follicles which are from hair loss-resistant zones of the scalp, retain their characteristics on their new spots as well. They will adapt to, and grow in their new place, making the procedure natural and permanent.
A lot of people suffering from hair loss also have reservations once they hear the word ‘surgery’. They should know that hair restoration or transplants are a minimally-invasive procedure, and they are done under anesthesia and are almost painless. The recovery time is very short as well. Patients are allowed to go back home within a day or two, and can even return to their regular, everyday routine with a week to ten days depending on the kind of work they do. Hair transplant procedures are unlike other surgeries, they don’t leave big scars and with good aftercare, people won’t be able to tell if someone has undergone the procedure. FUE leaves small dot-like scares, while FUT will leave a linear scar, which can be concealed by keeping the hair around it slightly longer. Even for patients who don’t have much hair left on their donor areas, in which case medication will almost be ineffective, FUE provides the option of Body Hair Transplant or BHT. In BHT, hair from other parts of the body like arms, legs or the back is used as donor hair, while the rest of the procedure remains the same.
One thing that is most important when taking the surgical approach to hair transplant is to find an experienced surgeon, set up a consultation with them, and ask them to recommend which is the right procedure for you. The surgery itself must be performed by somebody with experience in treating patients of different ages, hair textures, and races.