Hair loss is an issue that almost every one of us will face at various times in our life. The condition can affect both men and women. For some, hair loss can be minor and temporary and will resume a normal growth pattern once the underlying cause of the problem is removed. However, others can find their hair loss is permanent, occurring in different patterns and affecting not just the scalp, but the entire body.
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. It can cause a significant amount of worry and anxiety, but depending on the cause of the hair loss, it can be managed and possibly even treated.
The most common type of hair loss is androgenic alopecia. This is also known as male or female pattern hair loss. The condition is known to affect individuals as they age and is estimated to affect almost 50% of men by the time they reach the age of fifty but can start as early as puberty.
Causes of Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenic alopecia is a genetic disorder. In men, it typically will present in a distinct pattern. Usually, the hair will begin to thin out at the temples and progress towards the forehead causing a receding hairline. A bald patch eventually develops on the crown of the head, and many men end up losing all their hair from the top of their head. In women, female pattern hair loss can present with hair thinning over the top of the head and the parting in the hair line becoming wider. Some women find they have episodes of excessive hair shedding which can be an emotionally distressing time for them.
The condition is caused by the hair follicles being highly sensitive to male hormones (androgens) and results in the hair progressively growing finer and shorter. This increase in sensitivity is inherited, and the age at which the hair loss begins and how much hair is lost seems to run in patterns within families.
Treatment of Androgenic Alopecia
Currently, treatments are available which can prevent and slow down the amount of hair loss. In some successful cases, the treatments can even promote hair regrowth.
Men who are suffering from androgenic alopecia can try;
- Minoxidil – a topical application to be applied directly to the scalp on a daily basis.
- Finasteride – a daily tablet form medication; however recent research suggests Finasteride has harmful effects on the body in the long run.
Women who have female pattern hair loss can try;
- Minoxidil – again to be applied topically directly to the scalp on a daily basis
- Anti-androgen tablets such as spironolactone or cyproterone
Sometimes doctors may recommend a combination of both treatments for more effective management, depending on the severity of the condition. Results can take anywhere up to six to twelve months before any effects are noticeable. However, each of these potential treatments come with side effects. To maintain any results, the medications must be taken continuously; otherwise, hair loss will set in again.
Many people will accept their altered appearance and will not be bothered by the change, meaning they wish not to opt for any treatment. Otherwise, cosmetic options are also available and can be discussed with a hair loss expert for further advice.