The survey commissioned by the international medical authority on hair loss, the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), finds only a small portion of people know where to go for treatment. It shows many people still subscribe to a lot of myths about the causes of hair loss and very few people would consider contacting a physician specialising in hair loss to obtain treatment.
Perth-based hair restoration physician Dr Jennifer Martinick, who was among the keynote speakers at the ISHRS annual scientific meeting in San Diego in October, says the survey findings are typical of the responses she hears from patients at her clinics.
“The responses of the 1,023 people interviewed by telephone are regularly reflected among the people who visit my clinics,” Dr Martinick says. “The survey finds that 58 per cent of adults believe stress and medical causes can trigger hair loss.
“Younger adults still subscribe to a lot of common myths such as over brushing and over shampooing can contribute to hair loss.”
Dr Martinick says greater education is needed to debunk some of these myths and ensure hair loss patients do not fall prey to people peddling nonmedical “quick fix” solutions. Dr Martinick, who has actively campaigned for greater awareness on hair loss issues, says the ISHRS survey shows that only four in 10 people will take the appropriate step of seeking advice from their general practitioner.
The survey shows that just 15 per cent of people are likely to visit a physician specialising in hair loss for their first source of advice. A consequence of this is that many hair loss patients spend years wasting money on inappropriate treatments rather than obtaining a medical diagnosis for their hair loss from a physician.
Dr Martinick says patients tell her they haven’t discussed hair loss with their general practitioner because they fear they will not be taken seriously.
“While the condition is not life threatening, it does have an enormous affect on the emotional wellbeing of some people, in particularly young men who have yet to find a partner.
“Wavering self esteem, bouts of depressions, and severe anxiety are certainly not uncommon among people with hair loss.
“An awareness of how deeply affected some people are can be helpful if a patient tries to raise the subject.”
Dr Martinick says doctors can warn patients about the need to pursue medically proven options such as taking the oral medication propecia, using the topical solution minoxidil or choosing the permanent solution of a hair transplant.
Patients should be warned against committing to the permanent solution of a hair transplant until they have thoroughly researched the physician who will do it. This research should include using internet search engines and asking to meet with past patients to find out if they obtained satisfactory results.
The non-profit ISHRS, which has a membership of over 600 physicians worldwide, provides continuing medical education to physicians specialising in hair loss treatment.