The loss of hair (alopecia) is a natural phenomenon in all hair-baring animals that normally occurs during the hair growth cycle. It is estimated that most individuals (assuming they have a full head of hair) lose about 100 scalp hairs over a 24-hour period. Hair loss can become a cosmetic problem when it occurs in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong individual. True hair loss should be distinguished from damage to the hair shaft, which may cause breakage close to the scalp. This sort of damage is most often caused by exogenous chemicals used to alter the physical characteristics of the hair shaft (use of hair dye, use of hot hair straightening devices, over zealous blow-drying, etc.), but certain genetic diseases can also alter hair shaft strength and durability.
Many treatment options are available to help alopecia ranging from: hormonal therapies, mesotherapy, nutritional supplementations, localized treatments with shampoos and lotions to hair grafting.
Past few years a new option in hair restoration has been gaining popularity that is painless and noninvasive. The use of Low level laser therapy (LLLT) has been found to stimulate microcirculation, decrease inflammation, improve cellular metabolism and protein synthesis. European studies suggest that LLLT increases blood and lymph circulation at the hair roots and stimulates follicular cells, which may cause hair to grow in thicker and stronger. Recent studies in the U.S. have also shown positive effects on hair growth (including increases in hair density). More studies, evaluating the effectiveness of LLLT in the treatment of hair loss, are still underway. In January of 2007, the FDA granted clearance to the first hand-held low level laser device for the treatment of hair growth. In the FDA summary, the FDA noted that the low level laser device was capable of promoting hair growth in men with 'androgenetic alopecia' (male pattern hair loss).
To understand how LLLT works, you have to alter the way you view lasers. LLLT isn’t a light source that causes thermal, or heat, damage. With LLLT, there is no cutting or burning sensation. The technology doesn’t even resemble the look of traditional lasers. Instead, LLLT is delivered by a device that contains panels of lasers that shine on the scalp. Men and women being treated for hair loss sit comfortably under the lasers as it gently delivers the phototherapy to the scalp. Most of the patients read a magazine during treatments. There is no pain or discomfort from the therapy--some patients do report some "scalp-tingling."
The visible red light from the hood’s lasers travels several layers into the tissue without harming the skin and scalp. Because the laser light does not cut or burn the skin, the therapeutic light-energy is absorbed by the cells and the process of cell repair begins. One theory of how this noninvasive, non-chemical hair loss treatment works is that it stimulates the production of energy at the cellular level; therefore, improving cell function.
It is believed that LLLT may increase blood flow to the treated area as well. European studies have shown that LLLT stops hair loss in 85% of cases and stimulates new hair growth in 55% of cases.
Successful LLLT (Low Level Laser Therapy) requires that patients be committed to the 12-month therapy program.
Treatment starts with three 15-minute sessions per week for the first four weeks; then two 15-minute weekly sessions for 8 weeks; followed by once a week maintenance therapy for the remainder of the regimen. Some patients taper down to one treatment per month.
Physicians also recommend that patients having the therapy are careful to create the best environment for hair growth. This includes using correct hair care products that are free of chemicals, water to wash their hair that is free of chlorine, and nutritional supplements to fortify hair follicle metabolism.
For patients who cannot do regular sessions at the doctor’s office there are home use devices available. With proper training they can follow the regimen at home.
Patients who have used the therapy have said that their hair looks and feels thicker, fuller and healthier and they have noticed improved hair growth. As mentioned previously, Laser Therapy is no 'miracle cure' for hair loss. For best results, a visit with a qualified hair restoration physician who can evaluate your condition, make treatment recommendations and evaluate your progress, is highly recommended. One thing to remember regardless of the treatment regimen recommended, the highest degree of satisfaction is obtained when a patient's expectations are closely in-line with what the treatment can realistically provide.