Male hair loss (alopecia)

What is male hair loss?

Male hair loss, technically known as androgenic alopecia or more commonly as male pattern baldness, can start at any age. Male pattern hair loss is characterised by a progressive hair thinning and usually begins around 30 years of age but can occur any time after puberty. How quickly baldness develops and the pattern of hair loss is multifactorial and probably genetically determined. The first stage of the pattern is usually a receding hairline followed by a thinning of hair on the crown and temples and eventually forming a horseshoe shape when both features meet. Male pattern baldness affects around half of all men by the age of 50 and while some are not troubled by the condition, others suffer great emotional distress and loss of self esteem. There are a number of effective ways to help improve male hair loss and with the right treatment nine out of ten men can stop their hair loss and encourage fresh new growth naturally.

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss can have many causes including infection, illness, stress, surgery, traumatic damage, nutritional deficiencies and as a result of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. However, more than 95% of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness. The actual cause of male pattern hair loss is not completely understood but the contribution of genetics is thought to play a pivotal role. Whilst doctors find it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of male pattern baldness, some medical professionals attribute it to an increased metabolism of testosterone by an enzyme in the hair follicle at specific areas of the scalp. Your hair follicles can also be genetically more sensitive to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT initiates a process of follicular miniaturization, eventually causing the hair follicles to shrink to be so small that they cannot replace lost hairs.

Treatments for male hair loss

Male pattern baldness may not always be reversible but options are available which may slow or stop the progression. Early treatment is the most important factor in success as once hair loss has occurred over a long period of time, the hair may be permanently lost. There are three main types of treatment options available for male hair loss – speak to your doctor to discuss the most appropriate treatment for you:

  • Surgery – often invasive, expensive, inconvenient, time consuming and needs to be repeated.
  • Over the counter products – poor results and ineffective unless clinically proven. Minoxidil lotion is one exception.
  • Prescription medicine – finasteride is the first and only medication proven to treat male pattern hair loss.

Finasteride is a pill taken once daily, that blocks an enzyme that metabolizes testosterone to a substance that inhibits hair growth (DHT), the primary cause of male pattern hair loss. It is not indicated for women and is not recommended in pregnant women. Treatment is effective within six to eight months but any regrowth is not permanent. In tests, 99% of men who took finasteride experienced no further hair loss, and over two-thirds of them experienced significant hair regrowth.

Prevention for hair loss

Preventing hair loss can be difficult and will mostly depend on your type of hair loss and identifying on the underlying cause. Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) is usually caused by hereditary factors and so prevention can only be accomplished by early treatment. The following lifestyle tips are not guaranteed to prevent hair loss but can improve the quality of your hair follicles and hair itself:

  • Follow a balanced diet – Studies have shown that poor nutrition, limited food intake, and deficiencies in certain nutrients can cause thinning. These include deficiencies of biotin, protein, zinc and poor human iron metabolism.
  • Avoid certain shampoos – Choose organic shampoos that do not contain any chemicals that can be harmful to your hair.
  • Fit calcium in your diet – Calcium has also been shown to make your hair stronger, thicker and generally healthier.

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