Modern HIV treatment means people are living longer than ever with AIDS, which is wonderful. It also means that classic aging issues can now affect patients. This includes androgenic alopecia, more commonly known as male or female pattern baldness. Hair restoration for people undergoing treatment for HIV/AIDS requires special consideration. We’ll examine these considerations as part of AIDS Awareness month and World AIDS Day.
Does HIV Cause Hair Loss?
HIV is a viral infection that attacks the immune system, hindering its ability to function, which causes many complications and side effects. Hair loss can be a symptom, though it’s not a common one from HIV itself. Early HIV medications such as AZT, Crixivan, and Atripla, were more prone to cause hair loss. Modern antiretroviral treatments are less inclined to cause hair thinning.
HIV can also affect the Telogen phase of the hair cycle. Anagen is the active phase of hair growth, with about one centimeter of growth every 28 days. The anagen phase lasts two to six years. The catagen phase follows and lasts for about two to three weeks. During this phase, growth ends and the outer root sheath shrinks to form what’s called a club hair. The telogen phase is the resting period which lasts about 100 days until the anagen phase begins again. Once this begins, a new hair is formed that starts growing in the follicle. This process pushes out club hair or old hair.
For people living with HIV, the normal hair growth cycle can turn into telogen effluvium (TE), which is the term for when too many hairs stop growing and hair can start to fall out. Chronic illness, poor nutrition, and physical or psychological stress can all “shock” the system and trigger TE. All of those triggers are potentially present in those dealing with HIV, including a protein deficiency.
How to Treat Hair Loss in HIV/AIDS Patients
Heredity hair loss, including male pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss according to the American Academy of Dermatology. So, it’s perfectly natural for it to affect those undergoing HIV treatment if they have a genetic tendency.
As to whether people being treated for HIV can receive a hair restoration procedure or use treatments to slow hair loss, this would be a highly personalized situation. Technically, yes, they can receive a hair transplant or use other options like minoxidil. However, the final decision depends upon how strong or weak the patient’s immune system is. As for medications to slow hair loss, they have to be evaluated carefully to ensure they won’t interact with HIV treatment medications.
Consult with a Hair Restoration Doctor
Every patient is different so the best way to evaluate whether hair restoration procedures will work for you is to talk to a physician who specializes in hair restoration. Here at RHRLI, we offer free consultations in our state-of-the-art facility using the ARTAS® robot, and we’ll assess whether robotic hair restoration is an appropriate treatment for you. Learn more by contacting us today.