Are Hair Loss Treatments Covered by the NHS?

by Chris Tomkins

Posted on Friday 8th of July 2011

Treating hair loss is a daunting thought for many people and so many are asking the NHS whether they're able to get any assistance with the process.

Some Effective Solutions for Hair Loss

When you start to notice a receding hairline, it's only natural to feel nervous and to want some help. Unfortunately, the National Health Service does not cover any hair regrowth products. Their justificiation is that it is a cosmetic issue rather than a health issue, which makes some sense, but is also frustrating. Thankfully, there are a number of ways outside of the NHS to take care of your hair and help you to look your best again.

The first way to treat hair loss outside of the auspices of the NHS is to purchase Minoxidil lotion or foam from a local pharmacy. Minoxidil helps to regrow hair by opening blood vessels and potassium channels to hair follicles, which strengthens them and allows them to grow or regrow thinning hair. Minoxidil, known more commonly by a common trade name Regaine, must be taken daily or semi-daily, or else the thinning hair will come back. It doesn't attack the root of the problem, it just attacks the symptoms. In this way, it isn't the most effective hair loss treatment, but it is the only treatment available as an over-the-counter medication.

If you're looking for a stronger, more permanent treatment, you will need to ask your GP about Finasteride, commonly marketed as Propecia. Finasteride works by inhibiting the production of DHT, which causes thinning hair. It is generally available in a tablet form taken daily. This is a more effective way to combat thinning hair, but it is not available from the NHS.

Finally, hormone therapy has proven effective for a number of people for whom who the above two options were ineffective. Because hair loss is caused by hormonal issues (too much testosterone gets turned into DHT), certain drugs can prevent that transformation or reverse it outright. However, you should speak with an endocrinologist or dermatologist before considering hormone therapy, as it can have other side effects if used incorrectly.

What Causes Thinning Hair?

Men's bodies start to produce more of a hormone called DHT as they get older. DHT, or Dihydrotestosterone, is formed in the testes and adrenal glands as a metabolite of testosterone. There is an urban myth that more virile men are more likely to develop thinning hair, which only contains a kernel of truth. While it is true that men with more testosterone tend to produce more DHT, the more important thing is whether you are genetically predisposed to DHT-sensitivity. Sensitivity causes your hair follicles to shrink when the hormones cluster around them. The only truth to the urban myth is that among men who have high DHT sensitivity, more virile men are likely to go bald faster. But they will both lose the same amount of hair in the end.

As a woman, DHT sensitivity is also a factor in your hair loss. However, because testosterone isn't as prevalent in women's blood, less DHT is typically produced, leading to less noticeable pattern baldness. If you suffer from more severe hair loss issues than thinning hair or loss of hair in a "ring" around your head, contact your doctor immediately, as it could be the symptom of something more serious.

Are You Sure the NHS Won't Cover Me?

The only thing the NHS covers in regards to hair loss is the purchase of wigs in the event of alopecia areata, or if you've gone through chemotherapy. However, there are a number of powerful techniques about which you should speak to your GP for regrowing hair if you lose all of it and want to try growing it back. These include:

* Steroid Treatments - There are numerous steroid treatments available including injections directly into the scalp (to stop the body from attacking hair folicles), and steroid creams, ointments, or tablets. These are the most popular way to combat alopecia areata.

* Immunotherapy - The most effective method for treating alopecia areata, immunotherapy consists of applying a chemical solution to the scalp to cause an allergic reaction, which clears out the immune system and helps the hair follicles strengthen themselves and regrow. This serves the same role as steroid treatments, but is far more effective. It isn't used as much because of the prohibitive cost.

To Sum It All Up

The first thing to do if you have hair loss is to find out if you simply have pattern baldness or if you have alopecia areata. To do this, consult with your GP. If it's the first, there's nothing the NHS can do about it - you have to go to the pharmacy and get the Regaine or other minoxidil formulas. If it's the second, speak with your GP about steroid treatments to help regrow your hair, or contact the NHS and ask about purchasing a wig. Hair loss is a difficult situation, but know that there are plenty of effective, useful treatments to stop and reverse it.

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