Hope Dermatology welcomes our first guest blog contributor, Dr Elaine Sung (General Practitioner) from Doctors of South Melbourne, giving us her insights on hair loss from the GP perspective –
“Finding an increasing number of hair strands on the shower floor, in your brush or on your pillow can strike instant fear. The thought of premature baldness is something we would all rather not contemplate.
If this is something you have recently experienced, first and foremost don’t panic. There is every chance it’s a passing issue and absolutely nothing to worry about.
However, you should get the problem checked out if it persists or is severe.
As a GP, I’m usually the first medical professional patients visit to complain about their hair loss. We usually do a pretty good job at finding a cause. I always make a point to reassure patients that while not all hair loss is curable, it can be managed in the majority of cases.
GPs are well placed to discuss simple treatment options depending on the cause, of which there are many possibilities. Any good doctor will thoroughly go through a patient’s medical history, conduct an examination and order blood tests.
Importantly, I tell patients to steer clear of fads that promise quick results and deliver nothing but a lighter wallet. Herbal supplements and most lotions are as effective as placing a cut onion on your scalp (as someone had suggested to a recent patient).
I’ll usually write a referral to see a dermatologist if a patient’s diagnosis isn’t clear or more intensive treatment is needed.
Being leaders in the field of hair loss, dermatologists have access to an extensive range of treatment options. What’s more, they have the experience and tools to conduct more in-depth diagnosis, including scalp biopsies to determine the rarer causes of hair loss.
Depending on the circumstances, dermatologists can be better equipped to get patients on the right path to slow, stop or even reverse their hair loss.
Impact of Stress
Premature hair loss can cause enormous stress and anxiety. Sometimes it’s helped with education on the subject, other times this isn’t nearly enough.
Adding insult to injury, a poor mental state can itself contribute to further hair loss; quite a cruel double-edged sword.
Stress can be a factor in a hair loss condition called telogen effluvium. This is generally a condition that resolves on its own.
Stress and anxiety are also related to certain conditions that can trigger hair loss, such as trichotillomania: an anxiety disorder that results in people consciously or sub-consciously pulling their hair out.
GPs will talk with patients about options for managing anxiety issues stemming from hair loss. They can also arrange for specialists to assist in treatment, and coordinate care with a psychologist if required.”
Dr Elaine Sung is a local GP and owner of Doctors of South Melbourne. Her areas of special interest include women’s health, mental health and complex health needs.