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Do Hair Loss Treatments Covered in Health Insurance ?

28 June 2022, 3:27 AM

A famous adage goes ‘your hair is your crowning glory’. This is because our hair not only sits at the top of our heads but it can also drastically change our appearance. Many people use their hair to reflect their style and personality. People are known to change their hairstyle when going through a new phase in their lives. Scour the internet and you will find innumerable hair care tips. These tips range from lessening or curing hair loss to thickening hair to reversing or preventing grey hair. This shows how important our hair is to our appearance and self-confidence.

It is no wonder then that hair loss can have a devastating impact on self-esteem in both men and women. 

What are the Common Causes of Hair Loss?

It is normal for us to lose about 50 to 100 strands of hair a day. The problem is when our hair falls out at alarming rates. We may realise that our hair has thinned out or we notice clumps of hair on our combs or in our drains. There are different causes of hair loss. The cause can also determine how likely the loss will be temporary or permanent. Here are the major causes of hair loss in men and women:

  1. Hereditary 
    The medical term for this type of hair loss is androgenic alopecia. In men, this condition is called male pattern baldness and in women, it is called female pattern baldness. Here the individual has inherited genes that cause their hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop growing hair. With treatment, it may be possible to slow or stop hair loss. The earlier the treatment is started, the better. Without treatment, it is almost certain that the individual will continue to lose their hair.
  2. Age
    This is a very common type of hair loss as with age our hair follicles stop growing hair. This causes hair thinning and the hair also loses its colour. Catching hair loss early is imperative. Although it is not guaranteed, with treatment, some people do regrow their hair.
  3. Alopecia Areata
    This is a disease wherein our body’s immune system attacks our hair follicles, thus causing hair loss. The hair loss may not be limited to the scalp. People can lose hair anywhere on their body such as their eyebrows or eyelashes or inside the nose. With the appropriate hair loss treatment, it may be possible to stimulate regrowth of the hair.
  4. Treatment for Cancer
    Chemotherapy or radiation treatment to the head or neck will cause you to lose most, if not all, of your hair. This hair loss can start within just a few weeks of starting the cancer treatment. Although not fully preventable, wearing a cooling cap before, during, and after each chemotherapy session, may reduce or prevent hair loss. Regrowth of the hair occurs within months of finishing the cancer treatment. Moreover, dermatologists can also offer medications to regrow hair faster.
  5. Childbirth, Sickness, and Stressful Events
    For a few months after a major sickness, operation, or childbirth, you may find your hair has thinned out a lot. This also happens after a major stressful or traumatic event such as the death of a loved one. Once the stress ends, your body re-adjusts and excessive hair loss will also stop. 
  6. Hormonal Imbalance
    A common cause of hair loss in women is hormonal imbalance. This is especially notable in women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Medication and treatment of the root cause of the hormonal imbalance may address the hair loss problem as well.
  7. Thyroid Disease
    Although it is more common for women to have thyroid issues, it is not a woman’s disease. Men can also suffer from thyroid problems. An underactive or overactive thyroid will lead to changes in hair texture and significant hair loss. Once the individual addresses the root cause which is the thyroid disease, their hair loss is also reversed. 
  8. Scarring Alopecia
    Under this condition, inflammation destroys the hair follicles. Unfortunately, once the hair follicle is destroyed, hair regrowth is impossible. There are many causes of scarring alopecia; they are all grouped under the term cicatricial alopecia. This form of alopecia may be found in men and women of all ages who are otherwise healthy. Scarring alopecia may also be found in individuals suffering from chronic conditions such as chronic lupus, which affects many organs of the body.
  9. Scalp Psoriasis
    This is a common skin disorder that causes reddish, raised, scaly patches on the scalp. It can affect a small part of the scalp or cover the entire scalp. It can also spread to the back of your neck, your forehead, and the inside of your ears. To date, doctors do not know why scalp psoriasis occurs. It is presumed that it may be caused by a faulty immune system which causes the skin cells to grow overly fast and clump into patches. Scalp psoriasis is often treated by topical treatments. These treatments could be over-the-counter such as certain shampoos containing salicylic acid or coal tar. Or there could be treatments that have to be prescribed by a doctor.
  10. Lack of Biotin, Iron, Zinc, or Protein
    Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins that help convert food into energy. In recent years biotin has come to the forefront for people looking to prevent or reverse hair loss. You can find a plethora of supplements for hair, skin, and nails that have biotin as the main ingredient. A lack of iron, protein, and zinc in the body can also cause some hair loss. If the hair loss is caused by a lack of these, then upping your intake via foods or supplements should help improve the situation.
  11. Trichotillomania
    This is a hair-pulling mental disorder. Often the individual may not even be aware that they are pulling their hair. It is a disorder that comes under the category of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. The individual has recurring urges to pull the hair from their eyebrows, eyelashes, scalp, as well as other areas of the body. This often is a response to some form of stress. As long as you have not destroyed your hair follicles, this condition is completely reversible. The hair will grow again once you stop pulling it.

Hair Loss Treatments Available

The treatment for hair loss will differ according to the root cause of the problem. 

Topical Treatments: Minoxidil is usually used for the treatment of alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia. It can be gotten over-the-counter or with a prescription from a doctor. A dermatologist or trichologist may recommend an array of topical treatments to address the cause of hair loss.

Surgical: For androgenic alopecia, hair transplant surgery or scalp reduction surgery are optional. Today, follicular unit micrografting is the top choice in hair transplant surgery available. 

Internal: On assessing the cause of hair loss, a doctor may prescribe medication to treat the underlying health issue. This may entail medication via prescription or supplements. If it is a case of Trichotillomania, then the individual may need therapy and possibly psychiatric medication.

Coverage for Hair Loss Treatment in Health Insurance

Unfortunately, hair loss treatment is not covered by health insurance. If your hair loss is caused by other medical health problems such as PCOS, thyroid disease, Trichotillomania, and so on, then your health insurance may cover those illnesses. By addressing those illnesses, eventually, your hair loss problem may also get reversed. 

 Insurance providers do not cover hair loss treatment for the following reasons:

  1. It is Non-life-threatening
    Hair loss is considered a non-life-threatening condition. Insurance providers state that health insurance is better utilised towards medical expenses that arise out of injury or illnesses. They believe that the nature of hair loss is not serious enough to warrant coverage.
  2. It is Cosmetic
    Hair loss treatment falls in the ‘cosmetic’ category for insurance providers. Even hair transplant surgery is considered cosmetic, and so does not get covered by health insurance.
  3. Prevalence of Alopecia
    Studies estimate that over 40% of women and 50% of men will suffer from hair loss by the age of 50 years. In India, it is estimated that alopecia affects 58% of men in the age range of 30 - 50 years. Since hair loss is so very prevalent, the ‘at-risk’ population is huge. And so, coverage for the same could cost insurance providers huge bills each year when it comes to settling health insurance claims. Thus, insurance companies would rather keep that money aside for critical illnesses and disabilities.

Summing up

Hair loss is not considered a critical illness. It may be, however, critical to our self-esteem and image. So, when faced with unexplained hair loss, look into any underlying health issues. The cause could be a health problem that can be addressed and reversed, thus, reversing the hair loss as well. And while it is unfortunate that treatment is not covered by insurance providers, their reasons are fair. Their funds should be kept towards medical expenses for major diseases and injuries.

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