In answer to which doctor should I see for my hair loss, my opinion is that you should probably see both. Most doctors don’t know enough about hair loss as it is, so seeing doctors in different specialties may actually help you get a better, more accurate diagnosis. I am sure there are various conditions of hair loss that might be better served by seeing one more than the other. Perhaps a dermatologist would be better suited in determining if the cause was an infectious skin condition such as ringworm or scaring alopecia, and an endocrinologist may be better at diagnosing hormone related hair loss. The truth is, any doctor whether it is an endocrinologist, dermatologist, or general practitioner with a strong interest and knowledge in hair loss can make a proper diagnosis and work with you on the the treatment they think will produce the best results. The operative words here are “interest and knowledge.”
Try and find a doctor that seems to care about women’s hair loss, and understands the emotional devastation it causes. I don’t want my doctor to dismiss my hair loss, and I don’t want him/her to tell me it’s no big deal. It is a big deal and if your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, they he/she is not for you. If possible try and speak with the doctor by phone (believe it or not some doctors will talk to you on the phone first) and if the rules of the office don’t permit this then try and ask as many questions to the receptionist, such as, does Dr. X see a lot of women for hair loss? Does he order blood work? What does he usually prescribe for treatment? The reality of that last question is that their is no “usual treatment” every woman is different and hopefully the receptionist tells you something to that effect. I don’t want to see a doctor that prescribes Rogaine as his/her first line of defense even before making a proper diagnosis with blood work or any other necessary tests. I firmly believe you should not be walking out with a bottle of Rogaine the first day of your appointment. Sure the doctor can probably be able to tell if your hair is experiencing miniaturization, but what about the blood work to determine the causes? Rogaine may be the right treatment for you, but I’d like to know why.
Trying to figure out exactly what is causing your hair loss is going to require a little detective work on the part of your physician. Several lab tests are going to need to be done. I’ll make sure to make another post this week about the standard lab tests that should be ordered to start the process. Hopefully you don’t have to bring the list to the doctors office, he/she should know already. I get concerned when women have to bring a list of tests that should be ordered to their doctor. My feeling is that if they don’t know what to order then how are they going to be able to accurately read the results. But… a good doctor is a good doctor, and if you have one that really cares and takes a strong interest in your hair loss with a willingness to work with you in finding the cause then great.
So what exactly is the difference between an endocrinologist and dermatologist?
Endocrinologist: The clinical specialty of endocrinology focuses primarily on the endocrine organs, meaning the organs whose primary function is hormone secretion. These organs include pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes and pancreas. An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine system and who is trained to diagnose and treat hormone problems by helping to restore the normal balance of hormones to your system. Endocrinologists treat many conditions, including:
- thyroid diseases
- metabolic disorders
- over or under production of hormones
- cholesterol (lipid) disorders
- lack of growth (short stature)
- cancers of the endocrine glands
Dermatologist: The short answer is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of problems related to the skin, its structure, functions, and diseases, as well as its appendages (nails, hair, sweat glands). The longer definition (as defined by wikipedia) Dermatologists are physicians (Medical Doctors, M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and tumors of the skin and its appendages. There are medical and surgical sides to the specialty. Dermatologic surgeons practice skin cancer surgery (including Mohs’ micrographic surgery), laser surgery, photodynamic therapy (PDT) and cosmetic procedures using botulinum toxin (‘Botox’), soft tissue fillers, sclerotherapy and liposuction. Dermatopathologists interpret tissue under the microscope (histopathology). Pediatric dermatologists specialize in the diagnoses and treatment of skin disease in children. Immunodermatologists specialize in the diagnosis and management of skin diseases driven by an altered immune system including blistering (bullous) diseases like pemphigus. In addition, there is a wide range of congenital syndromes managed by dermatologists.
For my hair loss I’ve seen four dermatologists, two endocrinologists and have spoken about it with my gynecologist, and general practitioner as well as have also seen someone who “specialized” in thyroid problems. All that’s missing is a partridge in a pear tree These are the total numbers I can recall over the last 8 years. Since my hair loss is hormone related I think that the endocrinologists were probably the most knowledgeable and most helpful about my situation. That’s me though, everyone’s hair loss and causes are different.
So in closing, I echo my initial sentiments that I would always suggest seeing more than one doctor if possible. Look for one that is not only knowledgeable but one that also cares. Hair loss is not the same thing has having a blackhead removed from your back and requires more sensitivity and emotional understanding on the part of the physician. Ask a lot of questions and do your own research, even after receiving your “diagnosis.” Doctors are people and make mistakes too, this is your body and you have to be comfortable with the treatment.
I would be curious to know what type of doctors other women have found the most success with, Endocrinologist? Dermatologist? General Practitioner? Leave a comment below and let us know.