Male pattern baldness is a fairly common condition affecting millions of people. In spite of being a widespread condition, no cure has yet been discovered to completely cure Androgenetic alopecia. Hair loss has no significant incapacitating effects but it can be a stressful condition for most men bearing substantial negative impacts on self-esteem.
Men suffering from hair loss often spend long days and substantial amounts of cash trying to find a solution to their hair loss. This widespread affliction has created a billion dollar business with many treatments claiming a cure to hair loss. Men have fallen victims to many scams spending large sums for minimal results. Researchers have also been looking for a cure all treatment for alopecia since decades. Advertisements claiming miraculous hair loss treatment not only targets bald men but also men and women who are experiencing hair loss.
This article has been written with a goal to educate people about male pattern hair loss, possible genuine treatment methods and prevention techniques.
What is Male Pattern Hair Loss?
The description of this condition is in the term itself, male pattern hair loss; clinically termed Androgenetic Alopecia is hair loss with a distinctive pattern, chiefly over the frontal scalp. Pattern hair loss may affect both women and men but is much more common in males. In men, hair loss presents in the form of a receding hairline. In women, hair loss primarily results in hair thinning which is more generalized and not affecting specific areas as in men.
Hair loss often begins in men after adolescence, usually during their early 20s. Initially, hair loss may be difficult to notice as it simply presents with a receding hairline and may take years to progress to complete baldness. Once baldness occurs, it covers areas over the frontal scalp forming a distinctive U shaped pattern, as hair is present only over the lower back and lower sides of the scalp.
Other types of hair loss also exist such as alopecia areata(spot baldness), female pattern hair loss, hair thinning etc. However, they are either temporary conditions or have minimal cosmetic implications unlike male pattern hair loss.
What causes Male pattern hair loss?
The exact cause of male pattern hair loss is still under research but researchers attribute hair loss to abnormal hormone regulation.
Study of men with androgenetic alopecia has found men with this condition to have high levels of 5-alpha-reductase. 5-alpha-reducatases are a group of enzymes that play important roles in the metabolism of steroids. 5-alpha-reductase converts free testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is an androgenous sex hormone found in high quantities in the scalp and the prostate. High 5-alphs-reductase levels result in lower total testosterone levels but higher free testosterone and androgens.
Previously it was assumed that areas of hair loss had permanent loss of hair follicles, but new researches indicate the hair follicles may simply be dormant. According to the studies, hair follicles are dependent on IGF (Insulin like Growth Factor), regulated by DHT.
Treatments currently used for male pattern hair loss
Various oral and topical medications are available that have shown moderate success in treating androgenetic alopecia. Medications currently prescribed to combat hair loss include:
- Antiandrogens: Finasteride and dutasteride are both 5 alpha reductase that has been shown to improve male pattern hair loss by almost 30% with continued usage for more than 6 months. Optimum effects can be seen after 12 to 24 months however; effectiveness only persists as long as the medicine is continued. It has little to no effect in female pattern hair loss.
- Minoxidil: Minoxidil, an antihypertensive vasodilator is the most frequently prescribed medication with almost 40% improvement in hair loss. Improvement is seen after continued topical application of minoxidil for 6 months. It has been proved to show significant hair growth in both male and female pattern hair loss.
Hair transplantation has a long history of more than a 100 years with techniques being refined and less invasive each year. It is a surgical technique that literally transplants hair. It utilizes hair follicles from areas that are resistant to androgenetic hair loss. These hair follicles are then transplanted to areas affected by the hair loss. It is different from skin grafts as it transplants grafts with thickness up to the dermis, which is where the hair follicles are embedded.
The genetic nature of hair fall resistant follicles makes this treatment a permanent treatment technique. Unfortunately, due to the long downtime and possible complications of invasive procedure such as infection, loss of sensation, allergic reactions, and hair transplantation are not the accepted as a possible treatment by most men.
Researchers are exploring benefits of hormone supplements with growth factors such as Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF), Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), stem cell therapy and genetic modification. Although FDA doesn’t approve of using these supplements in high doses, the market for dietary supplements to treat hair loss is huge. The underlying pathophysiology of hair loss indicates that hormone replacement therapy may have benefits for treating hair loss. Improvement in hair loss has been reported by some men with Androgenetic alopecia after use of supplements such as Genf20 Plus and Growth factor plus that are designed to raise HGH levels naturally.