Stopping hair loss or regrowing the hair lost through alopecia has become an industry in and of itself. For those who have tried topical treatments and not successfully regrown hair, or who wish to avoid the pain of hair transplants and painful injections, low-level laser therapy can be an alternative treatment worth trying.
How Are Lasers Used to Treat Alopecia?
The lasers used in laser therapy to treat alopecia are different from the types of laser that can burn or cut. These lasers are called low-level lasers, or low-intensity lasers, and do not produce heat or damage the skin. Instead, these lasers produce light. The light energy passes through the upper layers of the skin without harming it and is absorbed by the cells in the scalp. Through this process, called phototherapy, it is said that the light energy improves cell function, thus stimulating the healing process of weak hair follicles.
Low level lasers are thought to stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles in the scalp, thus stimulating hair growth in healthy or weak hair follicles. Although laser therapy stimulates weak living hair follicles at the cellular level, it cannot revive dead follicles. While some patients may see improvement to weak or thinning hair within weeks, major change takes from 6 to 12 months and requires regular treatments.
The patients who have successfully used laser therapy for alopecia experience thicker, fuller hair. Many patients have seen hair loss stop as a result of laser therapy.
What is Alopecia?
Alopecia is the general term for hair thinning and loss, whether in localized patches, scalp-wide, or across the body. There are several different types of hair loss:
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that can begin in childhood and produces small quarter-sized patches of hair loss. The condition occurs due to white blood cells attacking hair follicles. This condition can progress to complete loss of hair on the head (alopecia areata totalis) or, even more rarely, the entire body's hair, including facial hair, underarm and pubic hair (alopecia areata universalis).
- Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition. Baldness in an older generation could be an indicator of baldness in younger generations. Hair loss patterns are gender-specific: Male pattern baldness generally starts at the hairline and proceeds across the top of the head. Female diffuse baldness maintains the hairline, but hair thins gradually, mostly on the crown.
- Telogen effluvium is hair loss following a systemic shock, such as post-operative.
What Causes Alopecia?
- Genetics. Male pattern baldness and female diffuse baldness are family traits.
- Diet, including malnutrition and starvation, consumption of insufficient nutrients that support hair health or consumption of a toxin.
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Stress and stress-induced behaviors, such as pulling hair.
- Chemical exposure, including some hair dyes.
- Systemic shock, such as postoperative shock hair loss (telogen effluvium).
- Exposure to radiation, environmentally or as a consequence of medical treatment.
- Hormonal imbalance due to a medical condition or the onset of menopause.