You may have heard that most hair loss is genetic. That’s because, in the vast majority of cases, when hair loss occurs, it is due to androgenetic alopecia, or what is commonly called male-pattern baldness. This is a type of hereditary hair loss characterized by a receding hairline and eventual hair loss from the front and crown of the scalp. Hair at the sides and lower back area of the head typically remain unaffected.
This type of hereditary hair loss can strike women, too – although it appears in a very different pattern for women, usually with overall thinning at the top of scalp, especially where the hair is parted. The hairline does not typically recede. When androgenetic alopecia occurs in women, it is sometimes referred to as female-pattern baldness.
Androgenetic alopecia causes progressive thinning of hair in men and women. It can begin to appear as early as the teen years and worsens with age. The causes of androgenetic alopecia – or pattern baldness – are typically a combination of three main factors:
Androgens, the hormones responsible for male sex characteristics, are present in men and women to varying degrees. Testosterone, for example, is the principal androgen in men. The androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a byproduct of testosterone production. DHT affects hair growth and sex drive in both sexes – and it is associated with pattern baldness.
Excess testosterone production results in higher-than-normal DHT levels. Both men and women experience an increase in DHT levels at puberty – it’s what causes the growth of pubic hair, among other things. Some people may be predisposed to higher-than-normal testosterone (and thus, DHT) levels throughout their lives. Elevated DHT levels can cause hair thinning.
DHT affects hair by shortening the time individual hairs spend growing as well as delaying new-hair growth after hair is shed during the normal hair loss and growth cycle. This results in progressively shorter, finer hair growth in affected areas of the scalp.
Androgen receptors typically bind with hormones like DHT. However, genetic variations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene can make certain hair follicles more sensitive to the effects of DHT – causing the hair follicle to shrink, weaken, and become unable to support a healthy strand of hair.
Men and women with androgenetic alopecia have inherited this hair follicle sensitivity to DHT.
How much hair you can grow is also determined by genetics. Even the size and shape of your head – something you inherit from your mother and father – can influence how quickly your hair follicles succumb to the effects of DHT, contributing to the speed of your pattern hair loss.
In short, if you have a family history of pattern baldness, you have an increased risk of having it, too.
The rate at which our hair grows slows down as we age.
In addition, the effects of DHT on hair follicles are cumulative – that is, the longer a follicle is exposed to high levels of DHT or is sensitive to the effects of DHT, the more damaged the follicle becomes. Thus, areas of your scalp that have slightly thinning hair in your 20s can become significantly thinned by 40, and completely absent of hair by 60.
Androgenetic alopecia is so common that half of all men are believed to be affected by the condition by the age of 50.
Male-pattern baldness is evident by its appearance. Usually, the hairline begins receding first, especially at both temples, creating a distinctive M-shape. Then the hair at the top and crown of the head begins thinning – which will worsen over time, eventually leaving the area devoid of hair.
Androgenetic Alopecia in Women
A significant number of women are affected by androgenetic alopecia. In fact, nearly 40% of adults with pattern baldness are women.
When it occurs in women, you may first begin to notice a widening where your hair is parted, indicating your hair has thinned significantly in the area, exposing your scalp. The overall hair thinning may be less noticeable, as it occurs slowly over time, and not typically in patches.
Hormonal fluctuations common in a woman’s life – such as during pregnancy or menopause – can also result in thinning hair.
Treating Genetic Hair Loss
The best way to treat either male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness will depend on your particular circumstances. A visit to an experienced hair restoration physician such as Dr. Scott Darling at Darling Hair Restoration of Liberty, Missouri, is your first step. Dr. Darling will review your health history and conduct a thorough hair loss evaluation to identify the pattern and distribution of hair loss, quality of existing hair, and miniaturization (if any) of hair follicles, as well as whether hair thinning or shedding is occurring.
Medications clinically proven to successfully treat DHT-related hair loss can be a first line of defense in many cases. These typically focus on either reducing your body’s production of DHT or preventing the DHT from binding to androgen receptors. These methods may be supplemented with other nonsurgical approaches, such as low-level laser therapy for hair loss.
Patients with androgenetic alopecia have been reporting great success with regenerative medicine approaches like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and stem cell therapy. These methods have been used on their own or to boost the effects of a hair transplantation surgery.
Suffering from Androgenetic Alopecia? Contact Dr. Darling, Hair Transplant Surgeon in Kansas City, MO
There’s no need to despair if you’re experiencing hair loss. You have surgical and nonsurgical treatment options – even if you’re suffering from the telltale signs of male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. Call the hair restoration experts at Darling Hair Restoration of Kansas City and Liberty, Missouri, at (816) 792-3400 to explore your options. Or use our convenient appointment request form to schedule your consultation.