Do physicians understand how much hair loss affects their patients?

Do physicians understand emotions of hair loss?

Some patients are extremely distressed by hair loss, even if the amount of hair loss is minimal.  Are doctors very good at picking up how a patient's hair loss affects their quality of life?

Researchers from Chicago examined set out to determine if dermatologists can predict how much their patients' quality of life is affected by their hair loss. The researchers examined 104 women with three hair loss disorders (androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium and alopecia areata).

Dermatologists downplay hair loss severity

The researchers found women rated their hair loss as more severe than their dermatologists rated the hair loss. Moreover, the degree of a patient's hair loss did not correlate with how much patient's quality of life was affected. For example, some with minor amounts of hair loss were quite distressed by their hair loss whereas some patients with more extensive loss were minimally affected.  Interestingly, the amount of hair loss a patient perceived they had experienced did correlate with how much it impacted their quality of life.

Implications of hair loss study

This study has important implications for physicians who see patients with hair loss. If physicians want to understand how a patient is affected by their hair loss, they need to ask patients just how much hair loss they perceive to have occurred.  I generally try to get a sense of this by asking patients "how much hair loss do you think you've had - ....a little bit? ... a moderate amount? ... or a lot?"

Reid EE et al.  Clinical severity does not reliably predict quality of life in women with alopecia areata, telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. J Am Acad Dermatol 2012; 66:e97-102



Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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