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It is a very common problem, affecting up to 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in our lives. Yes, women too – unknown to many, Androgenetic Alopecia, or male pattern hair loss, is the most common cause of hair thinning in both men and women.
The causes of androgenetic alopecia are multifactorial, with genetics playing a significant role. People who are affected have increased sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which shortens the growth (Anagen) phase of the hair cycle, resulting in miniaturisation of the follicles, and producing progressively fewer and finer hairs.
Men Vs Women
Men and women get it slightly differently though. For men, it typically begins at the temples, with the hairline receding backwards to form an “M” shape. For more severe cases, vertex hair thinning occurs as well, giving rise to a bald patch at the crown of the head. In severe cases, the hair loss progresses from these 2 focal points, finally meeting in the middle – only a ring of hair is left at the sides and back of the scalp.
Androgentic Alopecia – also often called “female pattern hair loss”, has a more diffuse hair loss pattern, with hair thinning occurring more on the top and crown, without a receding hairline like in men. The cause is again “androgenetic” – contributed by ageing and hormone changes – some women notice increased hair thinning after menopause.
Do I have it?
How do you know if you have male/female pattern hair loss and not some other cause? That will require you to consult a doctor. Hair is a common area which manifests disease – any severe systemic illness, like cancer, malnutrition, can increase hair loss.
Any problems of the skin or scalp – like ringworm infection, psoriasis, eczema, etc, can also cause balding. Even emotional stress can cause increased hair fall. This can be very dramatic and scary – like in Telogen Effluvium, a condition where the hair follicles all go into the resting phase, or Telogen, at once, due to physiological or psychological stress.
In my practice, I often see ladies with circular bald patches: often, this is Alopecia Areata. While the condition often gets better on its own, injection of some steriods often make recovery faster.
Fortunately, it does not mean a life doomed to hairlessness for people suffering from Androgenetic Alopecia. Many effective treatments are available, ranging from lotions to pills, to lasers, and in more severe cases – hair transplant. I will touch on the treatment options in the next post!