Androgenic alopecia, commonly referred to as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness, is a hereditary and progressive form of hair loss that affects both men and women. It is the most common cause of hair loss and is characterised by a specific pattern of hair thinning and loss, primarily on the top of the scalp and around the temples in men, and a more diffuse thinning of the hair in women.
The primary cause of androgenic alopecia is believed to be a combination of genetic predisposition and the influence of hormones, particularly androgens. Androgens are male hormones, such as testosterone, which play a role in the development of male traits.
In individuals genetically susceptible to androgenic alopecia, the hair follicles become sensitive to the effects of androgens, particularly a derivative of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This sensitivity leads to the gradual shrinking of hair follicles and a shorter hair growth cycle, resulting in finer and shorter hair until eventually, the follicles no longer produce new hair.
Androgenic alopecia can begin as early as in the late teenage years or early twenties for men and may start later in life for women, typically around menopause. The pattern of hair loss can vary, but in men, it often begins with a receding hairline and thinning at the crown of the head, eventually leading to partial or complete baldness. In women, the hair loss is usually more diffuse and spread out across the scalp.
Treatment options for androgenic alopecia include:
Medications: The two primary medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating androgenic alopecia are minoxidil and finasteride. Minoxidil is a topical solution that can promote hair growth, and finasteride is an oral medication that inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
Hair Restoration Procedures: Hair transplant surgery involves moving hair follicles from areas of the scalp with normal hair growth to areas where hair has thinned or receded. This is a surgical procedure and can provide more permanent results.
Low-Level Laser Therapy: This involves the use of specialized devices that emit low-level lasers to stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth.
Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and ensuring a balanced diet can contribute to overall hair health.
It's important to note that while treatments can help slow down or reverse the progression of androgenic alopecia, they might not work for everyone and results can vary. Consulting with a dermatologist or a healthcare professional who specialises in hair loss can help determine the most suitable treatment plan based on individual needs and circumstances.