Hair loss is a common condition, affecting a large percentage of the population. By age 35, up to two-thirds of men will experience hair loss. By age 50, 85 percent of men will have noticeable hair loss. It is not only men who experience hair loss. It can happen to people of both genders and at any age. Scalp Med explains the genetic component of hair loss and provides some solutions.
Most forms of hair loss have a strong genetic component. Male- and female-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is thought to happen when the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) miniaturizes the hair follicles. This keeps hair which has been shed naturally from growing back. This condition often runs in families, with men and women who are in a family with hair loss being extremely likely to inherit the condition themselves.
Male and Female Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness develops along certain typical lines. Generally, the hairline begins to recede when a man is in his twenties. The hair at the crown begins to thin. The hair on the temples and the middle of the scalp are apparently the most sensitive to the effects of DHT. Finally, only a “horseshoe” pattern of hair is left around the rims of the scalp. Some men experience complete hair loss.
In women, the condition produces thinning hair all over. The hairline generally does not recede. Women are not as likely to see the classic horseshoe shape in their remaining hair. It is rare for women to become completely bald as a result of female pattern baldness.
Other forms of hair loss that could have a genetic component include alopecia areata. Alopecia areata causes hair loss in patches all over the scalp.
Genetic Component of Hair Loss
The exact genetic mechanisms of hair loss are not well known to science. Hair loss is caused by the shortening of anagen, the hair’s growing phase. The time between the hair being shed and the new anagen phase can grow much longer during the condition, and DHT causes the follicles to shrink. This prevents new hair from growing in to replace that which is lost.
One scientific theory about male- and female-pattern baldness is that the condition is caused by the weight of the scalp compressing the follicles. The fat tissue in the scalp has a protective effect, keeping the hair follicles healthy. As the patient grows older, the production of testosterone and DHT increase. Testosterone is associated with fat loss. With less of a buffer, the hair follicles are vulnerable to the effects of DHT.
Females are protected from the effects of DHT by the presence of estrogen. During and after menopause, estrogen gradually reduces in the body, leaving the hair follicles vulnerable.
It is very interesting that testosterone derivatives, which are associated with hair growth on other parts of the body, actually suppress it on the scalp. Follicles in different parts of the body have varying levels of susceptibility to DHT.
Treatments for Hair Loss
Several different medications are available to treat hair loss. Minoxidil is the best known. This medication can be rubbed directly on the scalp, and it is effective for both men and women. This medication produces a fine regrowth of hair. It is not likely to produce the same level of hair that the patient had before the baldness began.
Anti-androgens are another option, particularly for women. The anti-androgen drug spironolactone can help with the treatment of female pattern baldness. Since the hormone is suppressed, the hair follicles do not shrink, and the hair does not fall out. This treatment may not regrow hair, but it can preserve existing hair.
Understanding Hair Loss
Hair loss is a serious problem which affects the self-esteem of millions of men and women in the United States alone. With an understanding of the condition, men and women will be able to work with their doctors or with hair loss specialists to decide how to move forward. Since genetic hair loss is so common, Scalp Med encourages people with the condition to remember that they are not alone in their affliction.