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Medical Ways To Cut Hair Loss

Hair loss may be perceived as a man's problem, but millions of women suffer from the potentially embarrassing, and even emotionally devastating, condition.

However, experts say there are options for women suffering from the affliction.

The Early Show examines the issue of women and hair loss in a three-part series. In this second part, Dr. Robert Bernstein of Bernstein Medical - Center For Hair Restoration, outlines treatment options, which apply to both men and women. Depending on the cause of hair loss, doctors can prescribe medicine or recommend a hair transplant to women.

Medicines may help slow or prevent the development of common baldness. Effectiveness varies with the cause of the baldness. Generally, treatment is less effective for more extensive cases of hair loss. Medicine available to treat hair loss includes:

  • Minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine): Rogaine is available without a prescription. It is applied to the scalp, and both men and women can use it. It is a liquid to be rubbed into your scalp twice daily to re-grow hair and to prevent further loss. Some people experience some hair re-growth. Many more experience a slower rate of hair loss. New hair is often thinner and lighter in color than previous hair.
  • Cortisone (Cortone): Injections of cortisone into the scalp can be used to treat loss hair. Treatment is usually repeated monthly and generally involves only mild discomfort during injections. Cortisone pills are sometimes prescribed for extensive hair loss.
  • Anthralin (Drithocreme, Micanol): This medication is available as either a cream or an ointment. Anthralin is a synthetic, tarry substance that you apply to the scalp and wash off daily. It's typically used to treat a chronic skin disease, but doctors can prescribe it to treat other conditions. Anthralin may stimulate new hair growth for mild cases of hair loss.

Hair transplants and scalp reduction surgeries are also available to treat hair loss. Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Unfortunately, some people who undergo these procedures experience chronic head pain afterward. There's also a slight risk of infection.

Bernstein says if you're interested in these procedures, consider only board-certified dermatologists, plastic surgeons or cosmetic surgeons, and check local and state medical boards for a record of patient complaints before choosing a doctor.

The different surgical procedures for hair loss are:

  • Follicular Unit Transplantation: This is the hair transplant method widely used today. Hair is transplanted from the permanent zone in the back of the scalp into areas affected by genetic balding, using only the naturally occurring, individual follicular units.
  • Scalp reduction: As the name implies, this surgery decreases the area of bald skin on your head. Your scalp and the top part of your head may seem to have a snug fit. But the skin can become flexible and stretched enough for some of it to be surgically removed. After the hairless scalp is removed, the space is closed with hair-covered scalp. Doctors can also fold hair-bearing skin over an area of bald skin in a scalp-reduction technique called a flap. Scalp reduction can be combined with hair transplantation to fashion a natural looking hairline.

Be sure to watch part three of The Early Show's series on Wednesday that examines the non-medical options for hair replacement.