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Female Hair Loss Overview

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While hair loss in men is more common than it is in women, up to 50% of women will suffer hair loss or hair thinning during their lifetimes. Some causes, including reactions to medications, stress, or hormonal factors including pregnancy and menopause, can be reversed through different medications or just by letting the body's natural restorative powers work over time. Other conditions, however, including female pattern hair loss, alopecia areata and other diseases, are generally considered to be the result of hereditary factors and require other methods to reverse their effects.

The good news for the millions of women suffering from hair loss is that recent advancements in hair replacement techniques can help women combat and reverse the effects of hair loss, particularly those that result from genetic factors. Most experts agree that hair transplant surgery offers the best and most lasting results for women experiencing hair loss that can be attributed to hereditary influences.

The surgical hair restoration process usually involves a series of operations, depending on the health of the donor hair area and the intended final results. Over time, the surgeon will take thousands of hair follicles from the back of the woman's head and transplant them on the crown or, if needed, in the front of her head. (Generally speaking, female pattern baldness tends to affect the top of a woman's head while leaving the front hairline fairly intact.)

Hair Transplant Surgery Basics

In a hair replacement surgery procedure, the cosmetic surgeon makes hair grafts from the healthy hair in the donor hair area (i.e., the back of the woman's scalp). These healthy donor hairs are then transplanted to the recipient area (i.e., where the hair loss occurred) on the crown and the front of the woman's head.

Before the procedure is performed, however, the cosmetic surgeon will ask the woman to grow her hair long in the back to increase the availability of potential donor hair. In both men and women, the back of the scalp regenerates hair follicles much more easily than the top, front, or sides of the scalp do. With a greater number of hair restoration resources to draw upon, a surgeon can address more areas affected by hair loss or hair thinning.

Each individual hair transplant session can involve up to 3,000 grafts, which can take up to a full day of outpatient surgery. The number of sessions needed will depend upon the current state of the woman's hair and her desired final look. Within 2 to 4 months, the transplanted hair will begin to fall out, but the underlying follicles will generate new hair, refreshing the overall hair count and resulting in a fuller head of hair.

After a procedure, the woman may experience headaches as well as general pain common to any surgical procedure. These symptoms tend to resolve within a couple of days and can be treated with mild prescription painkillers and/or over-the-counter analgesics. Temporary scabs will appear where the micro-incisions were made, but they heal quickly. Most women are comfortable enough to go out in public without a scarf, sun hat or other covering within a week.

Is Hair Transplant Surgery for Everyone?

While hair transplant surgery is considered a safe, low-risk procedure, any woman who is thinking about a hair replacement procedure should discuss it with her physician first. Generally speaking, surgical hair restoration is not recommended for women who have a history of skin infections or anemia, take beta blockers (prescription drugs typically used for hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias), or regularly consume large quantities of alcohol.

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