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Hair loss can be very distressing for both men and women. Especially if hair loss is beyond control and no remedy seems to be working. There can be many symptoms of hair loss but the most common is hair thinning and hair loss at the crown. It is true that men are more likely to lose hair than women primarily because of male pattern baldness. But even females experience hair loss in the form of extensive hair loss at the crown area.
What Is Androgenetic Alopecia?
Androgenetic Alopecia is a term used to describe patterned hair loss in both men and women. In men, androgenetic alopecia is also known as Male Pattern Baldness and hair loss begins as early as in their 20s. In women, this condition is known as Female Pattern Baldness and they usually don’t experience hair thinning until they reach their 40s.
Around two-thirds of men around the world are affected by male pattern baldness. Although hair loss starts in their 20s, 40% of males tend to experience considerable hair loss by the age of 35. What starts as receding hairlines initially leads to partial or complete baldness if left untreated.
On the other hand, androgenetic alopecia in women is not noticeable until their 40s or later. Around one-third of women experience female pattern androgenetic alopecia at some time in their lives. Women generally experience extensive hair thinning and widening of hair partitions.
What Causes Androgenetic Alopecia?
Androgenetic alopecia is caused due to an increase in the androgen levels in the body. Androgen is a male hormone found in men and in small quantities in women. The increase in the levels of androgen increases the sensitivity of hair follicles making them shed hair faster than normal.
Although an increase in androgen levels is the principal cause behind androgenetic alopecia in females as well as males, yet there are other factors leading to the same –
Androgenetic Alopecia In Females –
There can be other factors involved in causing androgenetic alopecia in females such as –
• Menopause – During menopause, the hormonal levels are imbalanced which may lead to female pattern hair loss.
• PCOS Or Ovarian Conditions – Certain ovarian conditions such as cysts or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are linked to higher levels of androgens. Women with these conditions are at a higher risk of developing androgenetic alopecia.
• Oral Contraceptives – Some oral contraceptive or birth control pills are highly androgenic and trigger hair loss in women.
• Poor Diet – If females lack nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, selenium etc. in their diet, it can lead to pattern hair loss.
• Aging – Female pattern hair loss is more evident in older females as with age, hair follicles shrink and lead to hair loss.
Androgenetic Alopecia In Males –
Other factors influencing male pattern baldness in males are –
• Heredity – If other members of your family have suffered from male pattern baldness, the chances are you will have it too.
• High Blood Pressure – Hypertension or high blood pressure is strongly liked to androgenetic alopecia in men because of the striking similarity of the presence of same receptors on the cells as per a study.
• Coronary Heart Diseases – As per a study published in the Indian Dermatology Journal, high blood pressure and obesity are linked with coronary heart diseases and the precursors involved in coronary heart disease and androgenetic alopecia are linked.
• Prostate Cancer – As per studies, the instances of prostate cancer and androgenetic alopecia are linked as a high amount of androgen is responsible for both the conditions.
• Excessive Smoking – Excessive smoking increases the risk of having androgenetic alopecia and is considered as a risk factor.
• Poor Diet – A diet lacking in nutrients such as biotin, vitamin A, iron, zinc, vitamin D, selenium etc. can lead to male pattern baldness.
• Advancing Age – Men in their 40s are more prone to male pattern baldness than those in the early 20s.
• Obesity – A higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with alopecia in men and in an early onset of hair loss.
Signs And Symptoms Of Androgenetic Alopecia
Some common symptoms of androgenetic alopecia in both men and women are described below –
• Receding Hairlines – In male pattern baldness, the first sign to look for will be receding hairline. It starts to recede making the forehead appear larger with time. However, women do not experience this.
• Increased Hair Fall – This is a common symptom of androgenetic alopecia in females as well as males. The hair shedding is more than normal in a day.
• Bi-Temporal Recession Of Hair – The receding hairline in some men is accompanied with the hair loss from both the temples as well.
• Thinning Of Hair – The frequent hair fall results in gradual thinning of the hair. The new hair produced from the hair follicles tend to be thinner than usual.
• Widening Partitions – This is a common symptom to look for in women where they start losing hair from the center partition and it becomes wider with the progression of androgenetic alopecia.
Ludwig Classification – Female Pattern Hair Loss
The trichologists also refer to Ludwig Classification to describe female pattern hair loss.
• Type I – is characterized by minimal thinning of hair
• Type II – is characterized by widening of middle partition and decreased volume of hair
• Type III – is characterized by diffuse thinning and a see-through appearance of top of the scalp.
What Does Androgenetic Alopecia Look Like?
In androgenetic alopecia, hair is lost in a well-defined pattern. The hair loss in men begins either at both the temples of the crown area. Over time, the hairline recedes forming an ‘M’ shape. Hair thinning can be seen in the crown area often progressing to partial or complete baldness.
In women, hair starts to become thinner all over the head. The hairline does not recede in case of women. Also, androgenetic alopecia in women rarely leads to baldness.
How Common Is Androgenetic Alopecia?
In India, more than 55% of men in the age group of 30 to 50 years are affected by androgenetic alopecia while this percentage is lower in women. Only 10-15% of women above the age group of 40 are affected by it.
Can Androgenetic Alopecia Be Cured?
Yes, androgenetic alopecia can be cured using some advanced treatments available solely to reverse the hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia treatment in females and males are possible with the help of treatment options that we will be discussing in the next sections.
How Is Androgenetic Alopecia Diagnosed?
It is always recommended to see a professional if you start to lose hair. The doctor may advise you to get a few tests in order to make an appropriate diagnosis of your condition –
• Blood Test – Blood test is advised to determine your CBC count along with haemoglobin and serum ferritin levels.
• Thyroid Test – The test is done to determine the presence of any thyroid hormone disorders.
• Biopsy – Biopsy is done by taking a sample of the scalp to check whether it is androgenetic alopecia or alopecia areata.
Apart from the above, other tests can be done to check for autoimmune diseases that can accompany alopecia or testosterone analysis in women.
Treatments Available For Androgenetic Alopecia
We have learned that androgenetic alopecia can lead to complete baldness in some cases. You must be wondering – is androgenetic alopecia curable? The answer is yes. While we cannot do anything about the hair already lost but the goal of the treatment is to stop further hair loss and grow new hair. Let us discuss advanced treatments available to cure androgenetic alopecia in men and women –
• PRP Therapy – PRP is platelet-rich plasma therapy, an advanced treatment to cure androgenetic alopecia. In this method, the platelets from the patient’s blood are extracted and activated plasma is inserted into the scalp to stimulate hair follicles. PRP for androgenetic alopecia is a popular and effective treatment to regain lost hair. It is a non-invasive and safe method to reverse the hair loss. Just a few session are required and new hair growth can be seen in very less time.
Also Read: PRP Vs Other Treatments For Hair Fall
• Topical Medications – Medicines are most commonly used to treat androgenetic alopecia female treatment. One such medicine for topical use is Minoxidil solution. It is available as Rogaine and is prescribed by the dermatologist depending upon the stage of the androgenetic alopecia.
Initially introduced as a treatment for high blood pressure, this medicine works wonders for treating female pattern androgenetic alopecia. Just a 2% of Minoxidil solution applied directly to the scalp can stimulate hair growth. The drug is FDA approved for treating androgenetic alopecia in teenage girls of the age 18 till 45. The drug is completely safe except for minor irritation to the scalp in rare cases.
• Oral Medications – Finasteride is an oral drug used to treat androgenetic alopecia in men. This is an androgen receptor-blocking drug to stimulate hair growth. The possible side effects of this drug may include weight gain, fatigue or depression.
• Hair Transplantation – Hair transplantation is a procedure that involves grafting of skin with active hair follicles on the bald patches to stimulate new hair growth. The treatment is safe and effective but may be time-consuming and expensive.
• Micropigmentation – A popular alternative for covering bald patches is micro-pigmentation or tattoo on the scalp. A trained technician places tiny dots of pigment on the shaven scalp giving it an appearance of a head full of hair. Most men are opting for this less expensive alternative.
• Hair Supplements – In some cases, iron deficiency may be the cause of hair loss or the deficiency of other vitamins and minerals. Especially, in pregnant or anaemic women, iron supplements may prove beneficial.
• Other Alternatives – Good quality hair pieces or wigs may be the best option to cover the bald areas.
Alopecia Areata Vs Androgenetic Alopecia
Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic male pattern baldness whereas alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where hair loss is experienced in round patches. Androgenetic alopecia is known to affect about 50% of men in the age of 50 or above. Alopecia areata affects 1.7% of the world. Both the conditions require a different line of treatments.
Telogen Effluvium Or Androgenetic Alopecia?
Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss which occurs due to larger amount of hair cycling into the telogen or resting phase. In this stage, hair is ready to fall out eventually leading to excessive hair loss. The hair loss can be caused by pregnancy, stress, certain medications or surgery. This type of alopecia usually gets resolved on its own after several months, unlike androgenetic alopecia which requires proper treatment.
Is Baldness Inherited From Mother Or Father?
The primary baldness gene is on X chromosome which men only get from their mothers so the hereditary factors indicate that it is more dominant on the mother’s side. But in some cases, it has been found that men tend to develop male pattern baldness if they have bald fathers.
Is Androgenetic Alopecia Genetic?
Androgenetic alopecia will not always be due to genetic reasons as various environmental factors are also responsible for the same. However, having a relative with this condition puts you at a higher risk.
Is Androgenetic Alopecia A Disease Or A Disorder?
Androgenetic alopecia is a disorder that affects both men and women. What causes androgenetic alopecia is genetically determined yet the inheritance pattern is still unclear.