noun: an extreme fear of injection or hypodermic needles.
Imagine no more blood tests: at the end of an appointment quickly and quietly a stand of hair is clipped, packed and sent off to the lab. Those of us with elusive veins, phobias, the elderly, kids and not forgetting non-human veterinary patients can only dream of the simplicity. It’s a distant dream, a hair format for the majority of blood tests would never be possible. But data shows some hormones can be measured in hair, measured with an accuracy and reproducibility suitable for clinical use.
Hair has one unique advantage over all other sample types. It can used longitudinally and cutting strands into 1cm sections allows the measurement of the monthly average hormone level for previous months.
Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder caused by an excess of the hormone cortisol, is likely to be the first disease condition analysed by hair cortisol. Cortisol has wide ranging affects on tissues and organs throughout the body causing a number of different symptoms.
Several studies from different countries agree using hair cortisol as a first line diagnostic tool for Cushing’s is a valid approach. For this to progress into practice, uniform or fixed cut-off values or ranges are needed to standardize between international centres and demographic groups of patients.
Excitingly, hair analysis may also be able to help in an area where traditional blood tests are not valid. That is the area of mental health, anxiety and depression and behaviours in children.
So, the phrase “a good hair day” may suddenly be taking on a different meaning.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2017 176(6):695-703. doi: 10.1530/EJE-16-0873.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2021 184(3):445-454. doi: 10.1530/EJE-20-1127
Neuroendocrinol. 2019 109:171-178. doi: 10.1159/000498886