What is Male Pattern Hair Loss?
Male pattern hair loss is a condition that is also referred to as androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. It is generally known to be related to hormones in both males and females. Genetically, there is a predisposition to the condition. In other words, if your father or grandfather suffered from male pattern hair loss, it is likely that you will as well.
With male pattern hair loss, the patient may lose hair due to a ‘miniaturization’ of the hair follicle. This androgenic miniaturization is the most common cause of male pattern hair loss and will affect up to seventy percent of men at some point in their lifetime. Let’s take a look at the condition in terms that are simple to understand:
Each hair on your head lives in small hole called a follicle. Most of the time, the size of the follicle remains the same, and normal hair continues to grow from it. However, in cases of male pattern hair loss, for some reason, the follicle shrinks. The end result of this shrinkage of the follicle, is shorter finer hair, or no hair growth at all.
At some point, even though the hair follicle itself will remain alive and open in-spite of its smaller size, hair simply stops growing. This condition is called male pattern hair loss.
Hair Growth Cycle
In general, hair will grow approximately six inches each year. During this period, there are three phases of growth that will occur:
The anagen phase is the active hair growth phase. During this phase, the cells of the hair root rapidly grow and divide. Once a new hair forms, it will push upward out of the follicle. If there is already a hair in the follicle (known has a ‘club’ hair), that hair will be pushed out, or shed. This shedding is part of the normal cycle. The new hair replaces and becomes the ‘club hair’.
During the anagen phase, the hair will grow approximately one centimeter each month. This active growth phase will last from two to six years. You may have friends, or perhaps experience yourself, the inability to grow your hair beyond a certain length. This usually means that you have a ‘short anagen’ phase. Naturally, people who are able to grow their hair very long very quickly, have a ‘long anagen’ phase.
Obviously, the length of the anagen phase is different in other parts of the body. Eyebrows, eyelashes, body hair – under normal circumstances, these areas will have a very short anagen phase.
During the Catagen phase, growth of the hair stops. The outside root sheath of the follicle will shrink and attach itself to the root of the hair.
The telogen phase is what we consider to be the ‘resting’ phase of the growth cycle. During the telogen phase, which lasts for approximately 100 days, the follicle is at rest, and the club hair is completely formed, with a whitish bulb at the root (noticeable if you were to pull a telogen hair out and look at the root). It is normal to shed between 25 and 100 telogen hairs each and every day.
What Are The Causes of Male Pattern Hair Loss?
As noted, male pattern hair loss is mainly due to hormonal changes. In particular, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can become imbalanced. Too much DHT in the scalp can lead to a shortened anagen phase, which will lead to reduced production of hairs. The hairs that do continue to grow will be much finer.
The chances of developing male pattern hair loss are significantly increased if someone else in your family has experienced the condition.
Hair Loss Signs and Symptoms
Male pattern hair loss begins with a noticeable thinning of the hair. You may begin to notice thinning around your temples. Some men first notice thinning towards the back of the head (crown). You also may notice more shedding than usual, such as in the shower or on your pillow in the morning.
Hair Loss Treatment and Prevention
There is a variety of treatments and prevention options available to slow the progress of male pattern hair loss:
One of the most popular products available in the market today is Rogaine (minoxidil). Rogaine is applied to the scalp twice a day – in the morning and again at bedtime. The product works by helping to balance out the levels of DHT in the scalp, thereby reducing the sensitivity and irritation that too much DHT causes to the hair follicles.
It’s important to note that in order to consistently benefit from the use of Rogaine, you must use it continually. If you discontinue use, any newly grown hair may fall out.
Another popular and effective option is a product called Propecia (finasteride). Propecia is taken orally
in pill form. As with Rogaine, continued use of the product is necessary to see continued benefits.
Hair Transplant Surgery
For some patients, the use of drugs such as Rogaine and Propecia simply does not provide the result they desire. Increasingly, male pattern hair loss sufferers are turning to hair transplant surgery to restore their lost hair. Hair transplant surgery is permanent and allows most patients to achieve the desired density.
The Norwood Scale
The Norwood scale is used as a measurement and for description puposes to describe the degree in hair loss in men. The hair loss patterns shown on the Norwood scale, are the most common types of hair loss patterns in men.