The most common causes of hair loss include aging, genetics and a change in hormones. Cosmetic procedures, certain medical conditions and medication can also contribute to overall hair thinning. Whilst a successful hair transplant may change your life, there are numerous aspects to consider, which should influence your decision about the treatment you choose.
Before pursuing any treatment option, it is advisable to talk to your doctor in order to find the underlying cause of hair loss and the best possible treatment to combat it.
Truth about hair loss
Whilst some types of hair thinning, such as those caused by certain cosmetic procedures may be temporary, others will be permanent and irreversible. It is important to consider the symptoms and signs of hair loss in order to establish what the underlying cause is and whether it may be necessary to see a doctor.
Male pattern hair loss, which is commonly referred to as baldness, is defined as hair loss or a receding hairline on the top and the front of the head. It is usually a hereditary predisposition to sensitivity to the effects of dihydrotestosterone and it causes miniaturisation of the follicles. On average male pattern baldness affects 50% of 50-year-old-men and is likely to begin in the late 20s. Most of the time those who experience hair loss are generally healthy and it will rarely be caused by an underlying medical condition. It will initially appear in the form of gradual thinning, which may cause great emotional distress and can sometimes lead to low self-esteem and depression. It is possible to considerably slow down or even stop the process of hair loss with the help of products such as minoxidil, propecia, herbal preparations (check our top rated hair loss product), oral drugs or surgical techniques.
What is a hair transplant surgery?
Hair transplant surgery is an operation, which uses your existing hair from donor areasand moves it to the affected area. This means that in order to qualify for surgery the candidate must have hair at the back and the sides of the head to serve as donor areas for the transplant. For most men the donor dominant hair will continue to grow and will not be affected by the procedure. Hair replacement surgery uses a number of techniques to achieve the result and sometimes more than one will be used in a single procedure (most popular techniques : FUE and FUT). The cosmetic result will be affected by various factors, such as how much hair the individual possesses as well as the hair colour and texture.
Animation of an FUE graft being removed
The surgery is normally a one-day outpatient procedure performed with the use of local anaesthesia. During the procedure, the hair and follicles are transferred using a punch graft or a scalpel. The surgeon will implant grafts with small incisions into the recipient area. Following the transplant the patient will have numerous incisions with short hair appearing from the grafts.
How well does it work?
Although the tissue is transferred from the donor site to the recipient site, it will not be rejected as it is not considered as foreign tissue. However, in the majority of cases the patient will need a number of surgeries in order to continue the grafting process as needed. The number of sessions required will depend on individual factors, such as the area of the scalp which is being treated, the results expected by the patient and the patient’s characteristics. As a hair transplant does not cure baldness, it is only a temporary measure and it will not protect you from further hair loss. Male pattern baldness is often a progressive condition and in order to slow it down hair transplant surgery will need to be combined with other types of treatment as it will only cover the hair loss already experienced by the patient.
Whether the transplant works will also depend on individual expectations and circumstances. It can take up to nine months for the hair to take root and begin to fill in. The donor area should consist of thick, dense hair and even after a successful transplant it will not be as full as it was before the hair loss commenced.
What are the side effects?
Hair transplant surgery is not a difficult procedure. However, as with all operations, there are a few complications and side effects which may be experienced. Whilst these are usually minimal, short term and can be easily treated, it is best to be prepared in advance. Below is an incomplete list of possible side effects.
- Headaches. These are normally short term and harmless. They occur as a result of the tugging and manipulation, which occur during the procedure. You may also experience minor pain and discomfort. Pain relief is rarely needed but can sometimes used for a few days.
- Thinning. Shock loss or shedding of pre-existing hair occurs in the majority of transplants and is usually temporary. It is also possible to experience bald spots. The thickness will return to normal a few months after the procedure as the hair follicles enter the normal growth cycle for hair. However, the donor site will never be as dense as it was before the procedure.
- Swelling. This may occur around the area of the patient’s forehead and eyes but will only last a few days. The doctor may prescribe something to reduce the swelling.
- Scarring. This is most likely to happen where you have a genetic predisposition to scarring. If this is severe, further transplants may be possible in order to hide it.
- Itching. This is another common side effect and it should not last longer than a few days. Washing your hair more frequently, on a daily basis, may alleviate the problem.
- Infections. This is rare as you are likely to receive antibiotics in order to prevent it. However, if it does occur, you are advised to see a doctor.
- Cysts. These will be small, rarely disfiguring and may appear in the recipient areas for a few weeks.
What to expect after the surgery?
It will take 3-4 months, sometimes longer, after the surgery before the patient’s hair starts to grow. It is also possible to experience shock loss, which will be temporary but may worry some people. Most surgeries are successful even where the transplanted hair falls out shortly after the procedure before growing back out. The majority of people will note 60% of new hair growth in 6-9 months following the transplant. Even if permanent scarring is experienced, it might fade and it should not be visible after the hair has grown out.
Depending on individual needs and expectations, it is not uncommon to require more than one transplant in order to improve or repeat the results of the previous surgery.
As the patient may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, there may be possible pain and swelling and a surgical dressing must be worn, returning to work should not be considered until at least a few days after the procedure.
How to choose a surgeon?
The results of a transplant do not only depend on the patient’s individual characteristics but also on the skills and technique of the surgeon. Below is how to evaluate and select the right surgeon in a few steps.
- Find someone who is well known and recommended. It is advisable to discuss various surgeons with previous patients, online or in real life.
- The surgeon should discuss having realistic expectations with you and should not be promising you unlikely results. Talk with him about the benefits, side effects and what results you can expect.
- Ensure that your doctor has the correct qualifications. As the surgery will require a lot of skill, ensure that the surgeon is experienced and qualified to do the procedure.
- Find out what the price range is and see what is suitable for your budget.
- Choose a clinic, which is patient focused rather than commercial. Ensure that the surgeon provides you with individual attention and is interested in a satisfied patient.
Are you a candidate?
Not everyone is suitable for a hair transplant. Firstly, the candidate must have sufficient hair in the donor area to be transferred to the recipient area. The density of the donor area will determine the number of grafts available. Other characteristics, such as the hair colour, structure and thickness will also be taken into account as they may have an effect on the transplant.
Secondly, some surgeons will not recommend a transplant if you enquire at a young age. Surgery should not be conducted if you are below 30 as it will not cure the patient’s male pattern hair loss. Whilst the effects will be reversed temporarily, it may end up worse than before the procedure.
Having another transplant may then be an option but, as the patient donates hair from the donor area, there may not be enough to repeat the procedure a number of times. As there are no regulations in this regard, some clinics do not make their patients aware of this. It may be advisable to consider other options if you are not a suitable candidate for a hair transplant.
Of course, before doing the surgery, you might try one of the hair loss treatments available in the market and see if it works for you. We recommend Har Vokse as a first choice.
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