Category Archives: Getting a Formal Diagnosis

Women with hair loss generally try anything and everything in the attempt to find a cure for their condition and grow their hair back. However, all the miracle products and revolutionary treatments in the world won’t remedy your hair loss problem if you don’t know what’s causing it in the first place.

This is why the first place to start on the road to hair loss recovery is with a formal diagnosis. Unfortunately, because hair loss can have so many, often complicated causes, this is not always as easy as visiting your family doctor. What your GP can do, however, is some groundwork on your diagnosis, as well as referring you to specialists who can hopefully help you.

Not all female hair loss cases are simple to diagnose, so you need to prepare yourself for a number of medical appointments and plenty of tests. You may need to see dermatologists, trichologists and other specialists before you can pinpoint the exact cause of your hair loss.

Finding the cause of hair loss is so important because it points the way to effective treatment. With the details of your condition in front of them, your doctor or specialist should be able to tell you exactly what to do next.

Losing your hair can be difficult enough to cope with, but struggling to find the right medical help for your condition can make you feel even worse. If your doctor isn’t supportive or helpful enough, you need to find a new one to ensure that your condition is being treated correctly.

Here’s what to look for in a doctor, dermatologist or female hair loss specialist (trichologist)…

Your doctor should:

• Explain things clearly without being patronising
• Give you all the information you need, including contact details for support groups and hair loss charities
• Understand that you may be scared, frustrated and panicky
• Reassure you that other women are going through the same thing as you
• Listen to you, take your concerns seriously and try to answer all of your questions

On the other hand, your doctor should not:

• Make inappropriate or insensitive comments
• Treat your concerns and worries lightly, or refuse to believe you
• Tell you how you feel, rather than listening
• Be callous about the emotional effect of female hair loss
• Show impatience with you
• Cut short your appointments or miss out any vital steps in the diagnosis process

Although there are many genuine sources of help out there for women with hair loss, there are unfortunately just as many individuals, companies and websites looking to exploit desperate people by offering ‘miracle cures’.

The truth is that a huge amount of these products and techniques simply don’t work, promising lightning-speed regrowth of hair which just doesn’t happen. The people who sell these products aren’t usually trained or experienced hair loss specialists; they are solely interested in making money by taking advantage of your desperation and desire to regrow your lost hair.

If you want proper treatment for your hair loss condition, you need to go to a medical professional rather than wasting your money on these so-called ‘miracle cures’. See your GP for a formal diagnosis, then visit a dermatologist or trichologist (hair loss and growth specialist) for a further consultation and treatment options.

You can also look for hair management and replacement options, from organisations with actual experience of treating female hair loss. Use a reputable company known for its expertise, knowledge and sensitivity, and spend your money wisely on hair loss solutions that actually work.

If you notice your hair is starting to thin or fall out, you may immediately head online to seek out the cause and to look for some answers. Whilst the online community can be helpful when it comes to dealing with the emotional effects of hair loss, you really need to see a doctor first to get a formal diagnosis.

On visiting your GP, you are likely to be asked about:

• Diet
• Stress
• Hormonal changes (i.e. pregnancy or the menopause)
• Illness or major surgery
• Hair care and mistreatment (i.e. excessive dyeing or straightening)

Unless your hair loss condition is straightforward, you are then likely to be referred to a specialist, such as a dermatologist or trichologist for diagnosis. The specialist may perform a number of tests to determine what is causing your hair to full out, so you can expect any of the following:

The pull test – this is where groups of hairs on different areas of the scalp are gently pulled to see if they loosen.

The pluck test – this is where hair is pulled out by the roots for further examination

Daily hair count – if the pull test is negative (less than three hairs fall out), the patient is asked to track and collect the number of hairs that fall out a day

Scalp biopsy – a tiny sample of hair around the bald or thinning patch is taken for analysis

If you are worried about hair loss or thinning hair, the first place to go is to your family doctor (GP).

Your GP is likely to ask you about your hair care routine, any recent illnesses or surgeries, hormonal changes (i.e. pregnancy or the menopause) you have experienced and many other questions to help you get a formal diagnosis for your condition.

If your GP is unable to pinpoint a specific cause for your hair loss – of which there are many, some more complex than others – after this basic assessment, you may be referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist) or a trichologist (hair growth and loss specialist).

This is when more complicated methods are used to make a differential diagnosis. Alongside a scalp biopsy, you may also undergo a trichoscopy.

A trichoscopy is a method of evaluating the scalp and hair, focusing on the analysis of hair shafts, in order to diagnose diseases affecting this part of the body. Also called a scalp visualisation technique, it has been used with some success to diagnose female androgenic alopecia as well as a number of conditions which can cause hair loss in children.

As with any potential medical problem, the first thing you should always do if you think you have a hair loss condition is to see your general practitioner (GP).

Although not a hair loss specialist, your family doctor should still be your first port of call as he/she can take the first steps to getting you an accurate diagnosis. Your GP may ask you about:

• Your diet
• Any medication you may be on
• Your hair care routine
• Any illnesses you may have had recently

If you’re female, your doctor may also ask you some questions about your menstrual cycle and whether you are pregnant or have recently had a child.

You can also expect your GP to carry out a physical examination, blood tests and possibly a biopsy.

Referral to a specialist

After your doctor has noted down all the basics to do with your general health and is unable to diagnose you, it is likely that he/she will refer you to a dermatologist or a trichologist (a hair loss specialist) for consultation and treatment. This is where you will find out what is causing your hair loss and whether it can be treated or not, as well as learning about your hair management options.