New hair loss treatments for women

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Arlyn Stern's head had visible bald patches about 10 months ago.  It was devastating for her.  But now, she has a full head of hair.  Stern's doctor recommended she try a new product made for women containing 5 percent minoxidil: a topical over-the-counter medication that promotes hair growth.

"Little by little all of a sudden follicles are really coming and it just began to really grow out," Stern said.

Experts say the $30 bottle is just one of the latest options for women with hair loss, and the number of treatments is growing.

"This is an exciting time for research breakthroughs," said Dr. Shani Francis, a dermatologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago.

One of the newest therapies is called PRP or Platelet-Rich Plasma.  Sharon Eckhart, who suffers from "hair shedding", pays about $1400 a session for the procedure every six months.

"It's cumulative so each time I have it done the results are better and better," Eckhart says.

A centrifuge concentrates platelets from Eckhart's own blood.  Then, under local anesthesia, it's injected back into her scalp. The goal is to turn on stem cells and regenerate blood vessels to the follicle.

"We see about 80% of the patients have a positive result. Within two months, we can reduce shedding to a normal level. It takes about a year for reversing the thinning," explained hair loss expert and certified physician assistant Joseph Greco.

High-tech devices, experts say, are also making a difference when combined with other therapies. Eckhart gets laser treatments in conjunction with PRP in the doctor's office. 

And use-at-home low-level laser helmets and combs range from $300 to $700.  Doctors say just make sure any device you buy is FDA approved and you use only as directed.

"I have seen some really good results. It is a more of an investment um for someone to pay for this device but once they buy it they have it so I do think it's a potential option," Francis said.

There are surgical options, too. But, only about 13 percent of hair loss surgeries are done on women.  

"The main complaint for females is thinning of hair and shedding of hair. So hair transplantation, while it's very effective with females, it's not going to do anything for thinning and shedding of hair," said Greco.

Both Stern and Eckhart say they're grateful they found these new treatments. And, they add, leaving those bald patches behind has been worth every penny.

"I don't care about the amount of money I spent its been very worth it for me because I have my hair back," said Eckhart.

Experts say new oral medications are being tested right now that seem promising for female hair loss.

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