Hair loss, or alopecia, although not life-threatening, is distressing to most people. Aside from the affect on our appearance, we may worry that it may have some underlying significance about our health—sometimes it does. Hair loss has a number of causes.
People loose hair dues to genetics, ethnic background, diet, lifestyle, grooming practices, medications, underlying health problems, local scalp problems and more. Some types of hair loss are reversible—but some are not.
Before we run out and buy the first solution offered to get our hair to grow back, it’s important to understand that before any treatment is started, it’s important to know why one is losing one’s hair. It’s important to get a diagnosis. Sometimes diagnosing hair loss requires a scalp biopsy.
Some causes of hair loss can be determined with history and physical examination. At times your dermatologist may want to get more information. This is when a punch biopsy of the scalp is helpful.
It is a minor surgical procedure that can done in the dermatologist’s office. After numbing the skin, a circular, cookie-cutter shaped, pencil-eraser sized scalpel is used to take a small piece of skin from the affected area of the scalp.
This specimen is then sent to a dermatopathologist (a pathologist with expertise in examining skin, hair and nail tissue) who looks at it under the microscope in an attempt to get more information toward an accurate diagnosis.
Getting a scalp biopsy is particularly helpful, and important, when trying to diagnosis scarring alopecia, which is can cause permanent hair loss. Sometimes, even for an expert, it is challenging to know which of several conditions is causing hair loss just on clinical exam. Ordering blood tests to diagnosis hair loss is not always helpful or relevant. This is when your dermatologist might suggest a biopsy.
And remember, you can also suggest a biopsy if you are suffering with hair loss and your doctor doesn’t seem certain of the diagnosis.