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Hair Analysis Test
The decision of when to perform a laboratory evaluation or a hair analysis test in women experiencing hair loss should be made on an individual basis by the hair restoration specialist. In this article we briefly describe some of the situations where a hair restoration doctor may order lab tests. It is important to note that this is just an overview for your general information so you can understand the reason and the result if you are asked for hair analysis or laboratory tests.
When a hair loss specialist or physician orders some laboratory tests, these hair analysis tests are ordered only after specific clinical information or after observing and carefully evaluating your hair loss. Understanding the basis of these hair analysis tests helps you to understand the cause of your hair loss and also helps you to make an informed decision for a particular hair loss treatment.
Hair Analysis Test for Examining Nutrient Deficiency
While hair loss directly due to a deficiency in a nutrient is believed to be rare, a large industry has developed in recent years based on nutrient "hair analysis". Several clinics and laboratories claim to be able to define a deficiency of a nutrient or vitamin through analyzing a sample of your hair. The Internet enables these clinics and laboratories to advertise worldwide and a quick search should provide you with numerous web sites offering hair analysis.
Hair Analysis and Its Advantage
This is not to say all hair analysis is invalid. Analysis of hair is a very useful method of defining exposure to heavy metals. A hair analysis can reveal whether a person has had a chronic exposure to chemical toxins in the environment. And of course hair analysis can be used to show that an individual has been using illegal drugs. The test is known as Hair Follicle Drug Testing.These forms of hair analysis are looking for the presence of a particular chemical that is not normally found in hair, or looking for expression over and above that which is known to be safe.
Hair Mineral Analysis Test
These investigations have a simple yes - no question, is the drug, toxin, or heavy metal there or not? There is also the advantage that most of the metals and toxins looked for have a fairly stable chemical nature. They are un-reactive compared to nutrients so they are less likely to change with exposure to the environment. With nutrient analysis the laboratory is attempting to define shades of gray - exactly how much of the nutrient is there? This has been shown to be virtually impossible to do. Even sending hair samples from the same donor to different analysis labs yields contrasting results.
For analysis of nutrient deficiency as a cause for hair loss, a blood test is better than hair analysis. Typically, the minimum test includes examination of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate, Serum Iron, and serum ferritin. Though it may not sound like much, this basic test covers 99% of hair loss induced by nutrient deficiency or excess (too much of a vitamin or mineral can sometimes be as bad for hair growth as too little).
But if the hair loss specialist suspects some other reason for hair loss like in the presence of following signs and symptoms he or she may suggest that specific blood tests might be appropriate to rule out underlying sources of excess androgens:
Irregular periods - for an extended period of time
Cystic acne - severe acne which usually leaves scars
Hirsutism - increased body hair that doesn't normally run in your family
Virilization - appearance of secondary male sex characteristics such as a deepened voice
Infertility - inability to become pregnan
Galactorrahea - breast secretions when not pregnant (this is due to prolactin which is not actually an androgen)
Some of the tests that your doctor might order in these situations include the following:
Total and Free Testosterone - the hormone that is mainly responsible for male secondary sex characteristics
DHEA-Sulfate - a precursor to testosterone
Prolactin - the hormone that enables the breast to secrete milk
CBC (complete blood count) - for Anemia
Serum iron (and TIBC) - for Anemia
T3, T4, TSH - for Thyroid Disease
ANA - for Lupus
STS - for Syphilis
Hair Mineral Analysis
Each vitamin and most minerals are present in blood in extremely small concentrations. Blood also contains a great number of chemicals and molecules and many of these tend to interfere with vitamin and mineral tests. For this reason, a procedure like HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) that separates the vitamin or mineral from contaminating substances is usually performed prior to conducting the actual test.
Following separation or purification by HPLC, the vitamin or mineral is detected by a color reaction or fluorescence reaction. In these reactions, the amount of color or fluorescence that is formed is proportional to the amount of vitamin or mineral in the sample, allowing the amount of nutrient present in the original sample to be calculated. In the case of some nutrients, the purified factor of interest is reacted with a special chemical (reagent) prior to detection.
Hair analysis helps the hair loss specialist to reach a diagnosis on hair loss. There can be several Causes of Hair Loss in Women and Hair Loss in Men and after a correct diagnosis is made, the correct women hair restoration treatment can be suggested.