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Causes of Hair Loss       |      Assessing Hair Loss       |      Hair Loss in Women

Assessing Hair Loss

The first step in making a rational assessment of the extent of your hair loss, is to compare your present hairline with the hairline on a photograph taken a few years ago. This will give you an approximate idea of how much hair loss has occurred and the rapidity of the process. The unknown factor for most men is the extent of hair loss in the crown area. Looking in a mirror is one way to appraise the loss at the back of your head. The best way to accurately assess the hair loss in this area is to have a friend take a Polaroid photo of the back of your head. For an accurate reading, the picture must be taken with a flash. Another way is to ask your barber or hairdresser.

A visit to a physician who specializes in hair restoration is a worthwhile step. A thorough history and examination of the scalp can reveal the extent and trend of the hair loss process. With the use of the Hair Densitometer, a special magnifying apparatus invented by Dr. William Rassman, the founder of the New Hair Institute, a physician can measure the actual degree of hair loss in various areas of the scalp. This has the advantage of establishing a baseline from which the hair loss can be graded over time. If you decide to treat the process with minoxidil, a repeat examination in 6-12 months may show the effectiveness of the treatment. Careful assessment of the hair loss process is critical to accurate prediction of the rate and extent of hair loss.

The scientific way to assess your degree of baldness is to compare your pattern with the standard patterns described by Dr. O'Tar Norwood. They depict the most common configurations of male pattern baldness. There are seven grades of hair loss in the main series and five grades of a variation called the "A" series. Comparing your own front and back with these diagrams can tell you where you stand now. Discussion with a knowledgeable physician can give you some idea of what is likely to be in your future.

Norwood Classes Explained

In 1975, a dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon, Dr. O'Tar Norwood, building upon the earlier work of Hamilton, developed a classification of male pattern hair loss that is widely used today.

He divided androgenetic hair loss in men into two common patterns: the Regular Type, characterized by hair loss that begins in two different areas (at the temples and in the crown) and that gradually merge into one; and the less common Type a, that is characterized by "front-to-back" hair loss. Hair loss that is not genetic in origin usually follows a different pattern.

Some women also lose hair according to the pattern described by Norwood, but more commonly have a diffuse (thin all over), rather than patterned variety

Hair loss tends to progress over the years, although the rate can vary dramatically from person to person and the rate of loss can vary significantly over time. For example, a man may loose hair rapidly in his early 40's and then stabilize for many years, not showing a significant amount of additional hair loss until his 60's. People who become extensively bald usually, but not always, show a significant amount of hair loss in their 20's.

In general, the pattern of one's hair loss follows the specific type first presented. For example, a person who begins as a Class 3 usually evolves into a Class 4, then a Class 5, etc.. A Class 3a becomes a Class 4a and then a Class 5a. Less commonly a Class 2 may thin diffusely and directly evolve into a Class 6 or 7. We call this later process Diffuse Patterned Alopecia.

Look over the following diagrams and their explanations to see if you can recognize your pattern or the pattern of hair loss of any male member of your father's or mother's side of the family. The patterns you see in your older relatives may become your pattern since heredity plays an important role in androgenetic baldness. It is important to note the age at which the family member reached a specific pattern. For example, if your father is totally bald, but lost all of his hair in his twenties, and you are 35 with a full head of hair, his pattern has little relevance to predicting your future loss.

Regular Norwood Classes
Norwood 1 Type I

• No recession
• "Adolescent" or "Juvenile" hairline
Norwood 2 Type II

• Temporal recession < 1"
• Mild recession along frontal hairline
• "Mature" hairline
Norwood 3 Type III

• Further frontal recession
• Deeper recession at corners
• Earliest stage of balding
Norwood 3V Type IIIvertex

• Hairloss predominantly in vertex (crown)
• Frontal hairline recession may be present
Norwood 4 Type IV

• Further frontal hair loss and temporal recession
• Enlargement of vertex (crown)
• Solid band of hair across top separating front from vertex
Norwood 5 Type V

• Frontal and temporal areas enlage further
• Band separating the two areas becomes narrower and sparser
Norwood 6 Type VI

• Frontal and vertex balding areas merge into one and increase in size
Norwood 7 Type VII

• Narrow horseshoe band of hair
• Low hairline in the back
• Hair in permanent zone may be sparse
Type A Variant Norwood Classes
• Frontal recession keeps advancing backwards
• Single area of balding
• Eventual extent of balding tends to be more limited than in Regular classes
Norwood 2A Type IIa

• Entire frontal hairline recedes
Norwood 3A Type IIIa
Norwood 4A Type IVa

• Hair loss moves past this "mid-coronal" line
Norwood 5A Type Va

• Hair loss extends towards the vertex
• Back part of bald area is narrower than in the regular Norwood VI

How Much Hair Do I Need?

Over the past few years, we have tried to put a number on the amount of hair and grafts any given person might need. As we have gained experience, we have found that our patients want more hair than we had believed. At NHI, patient procedures are planned to ensure natural looking results after each session. However, some of our patients elect to undergo further sessions to further enhance their appearance. A recurring question is how much hair does NHI recommend? The number of grafts recommended is highly dependent on information our doctors would gather during a private consultation with you, as well as the characteristics of the hair-coarseness, texture, etc.

The total number of follicular units generally transplanted in the first session for specific Norwood classifications are listed (left). In general, the higher the donor density, the greater the number of hairs each follicular unit will contain. With low donor density, little scalp laxity or poor hair characteristics, these numbers may not be achievable

The number of grafts that can be harvested for any individual is limited by the laxity of the scalp and the density of the hair. In some individuals, it will be impossible to safely move 5000 or more grafts over the individual's lifetime, while in other individuals, the number of grafts can reach significantly above 7000. At seminars around the country, we frequently present patients who have received 5000-6000 grafts for their reconstruction so that prospective patients can learn what can be accomplished with persistence and tenacity.

Norwood Class Follicular Units Total Units With Crown*
3 800-1000 + ** -
3 Vertex 800-1000+ 1100-1300+
3A 1300-1600+ -
4 1100-1400+ 1500-1800+
4A 1700-2100+ -
5 1500-1800+ 1900-2500+
5A 2200-3000+ -
6 2000-3200+ 2800-3800+
7 2000-3500+ -