When suffering from hair loss, it is difficult to know where to turn. There are a number of different specialties who all claim to be experts in the field of hair and hair loss, and it is important to work out which you feel is most relevant to your specific problem.
Trichology stems from the Greek word ‘trichos’ meaning hair and ‘ology’ meaning study of. Therefore, a trichologist is a specialist in all health conditions and concerns relating to the hair and scalp.
A trichologist is not a doctor, but has been described as a ‘paramedical professional’, to help doctors manage patients with hair problems. An experienced trichologist will take a holistic approach that encompasses lifestyle factors, diet and general health when devising a treatment programme. They will be highly experienced and well-versed in hair loss and hair-related problems, but will be unable to write a prescription or provide medical treatment.
A dermatologist is a fully-qualified doctor who has gone on to specialise in the field of dermatology – that is, the skin. However, dermatology also covers all appendages of the skin as such so they also treat the hair and nails.
The success, or otherwise, of your hair loss treatment depends largely on the effectiveness of your diagnosis. Male and female pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss, but there are many different forms of alopecia and it’s important that a properly qualifed and experienced medical practitioner, such as a dermatologist, correctly identifies the underlying cause. A dermatologist can then provide medical treatment – scalp injections etc – and write prescriptions for prescription-only drugs.
Male and female pattern baldness, known medically as ‘androgenetic alopecia’, is the most common form of hair loss – 12 per cent for men under 29, rising to over 50 per cent by their 50s
[http://www.alopeciaonline.org.uk/research.asp] – and it’s caused by a reaction of the hair to male hormones called androgens. Therefore, this form of hair loss is a hormone problem and an endocrinologist is a fully-qualified doctor who has gone on to specialise in the field of endocrinology – a study of the organs which secrete hormones.
Who should I choose?
With any medical problem, it is generally advisable to visit more than one practitioner, to se how their opinions compare. Hair loss is no different. Although a trichologist is not medically qualified, because they see only hair-related problems, they may be able to offer some useful advice and guidance, even if they can’t write you a prescription.
A dermatologist may be better able to determine the reasons behind your hair loss, which can vary – if you are suffering from alopecia areata, for example, then the dermatologist would be the best possible person to see. However, many of the causes of hair loss are hormonal, which would make the endocrinologist the most relevant professional.
In the first instance, most people experiencing hair loss choose to visit their GP. This is a good choice, as a GP should be aware of the many potential causes of hair loss, and able to suggest what might be causing your particular problem. They can then refer you to the appropriate practitioner, who can hopefully help you to resolve the problem.
A second opinion
If you do want to get a second opinion after visiting your GP, a trichologist might be a good option. They too will have seen enough hair loss patients to have a good idea of what might be the underlying cause, and if they agree with the GP then you can be pretty sure that you are being referred to the right place.
An endocrinologist will treat a whole host of other health concerns as well as hair loss, including diabetes, thyroid and metabolic disorders, menopause and cancers of the endocrine glands. Similarly, a dermatologist will treat acne, dermatitis, eczema, excessive sweating, impetigo, rosacea, vitiligo and skin cancers, to name just a few.
It is important, then, to chose a specialist who has a good degree of experience in hair loss, as well as other health conditions, and, even more importantly, understands the emotional devastation