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The amount of information blood tests can give is often crucial in the treatment of falling and/or thinning hair. It is usually best for blood to be drawn after a fast of 12 hours, ideally in the morning before 11am, without having breakfast.
Subsequent tests should be taken at approximately the same time and under the same circumstances for accurate comparison as your hair condition is monitored and improves. This is so that any supplements or medications prescribed can be accurately adjusted. Philip Kingsley trichologists have a number of ‘blood profiles’ that they recommend in relevant cases during consultations.
The tests are administered by a doctor who sends the blood to a laboratory for analysis according to the recommended profile. Alternatively, you might be sent directly to the laboratory. Within a week or so, we receive the test results for our trichologists’ analysis as to how blood levels might be affecting your hair.
A typical profile, and one we recommend most, looks at all iron levels, including ferritin (iron stores), white and red blood cells, zinc, vitamin B12, folic acid and thyroid. Sometimes, hormonal and full blood chemistries are also run. The problem with hormone tests, i.e. oestrogens (female hormones) and androgens (male hormones), is that they may be within the normal reference range and still affect your hair.
So much depends on the sensitivity of your hair follicles to circulating hormones. If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, normal or even sub-normal levels of oestrogens and/or androgens can cause problems.
However, if you don’t have genetically susceptible hair follicles, even high levels of circulating hormones may not little effect. Similarly, readings of thyroid, iron, ferritin, B12, folic acid, etc. in the normal reference range effect some people’s hair follicles more than others’. Biochemistries are also sometimes required. These measure various liver and kidney functions, proteins, cholesterol, triglycerides, potassium, sodium, etc., all of which can have an effect on your hair.
How to Read Blood Test Results
If you are experiencing hair loss, you might have asked your doctor to arrange blood tests and in many instances your results may come back within the normal reference range. While your doctor may well say that everything is normal and not to worry, chances are that you will still be concerned because you know that something is amiss.
Also, there is always an underlying cause for hair loss. The reason for confusion is frequently this: your GP will read your blood test results differently than a trichologist will. He or she is looking for levels that might affect your general health, but not your hair – a non-vital tissue.
For instance, there can be low normal, mid-normal and high normal readings, and the high and the low normals can often cause hair problems, but won’t affect your general health. For example, ferritin may have a reference range of 10-130 ug/L (micrograms per litre), with your results showing a reading of 30 ug/L.
While this level is fine in terms of the well-being of vital organs, optimum ferritin levels for hair should be at least 80 ug/L and anything less can trigger increased hair fall, or decreased growth. Thyroid and haemoglobin levels are other examples of this and can be quite complex. If you are losing your hair, have spoken with your doctor and are still concerned by your blood tests, it’s best to speak with a trichologist for further analysis.
You could also go directly to a Philip Kingsley trichologist for a consultation and blood tests. It is our practice to always consult with your general doctor and any other relevant medical specialists about your blood work results.