Androgenic alopecia is a form of hair loss that affects both men and women. In men, hair loss occurs in a well-defined pattern right above the temples. This condition in men is referred to as “male pattern baldness” and over time, the hairline will recede to form an ‘M’ shape. Hair starts to shrink at the crown and progresses to complete or partial baldness. Androgenic alopecia in men has been associated with many medical conditions such as enlargement of the prostate and coronary heart disease. Male pattern baldness can affect about two-thirds of the population and the odds of having this hair loss condition increase as one ages.
Androgenic alopecia in females is slightly different from that of male pattern baldness. Women who develop this condition are likely to notice that hair has become thinner all over the head in totality. The hairline does not typically recede and this condition very rarely causes total baldness. In women, this condition is referred to as “female pattern baldness”. Androgenic alopecia in females becomes an increasing risk in those diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS occurs due to hormonal imbalance. This leads to acne outbreaks, irregular periods, excess hair on the body, rapid weight gain, and hair loss from the head.
Risk Factors That May Lead to Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenic alopecia in females and males can be triggered by the following risk factors:
- Age: Approximately 25% of men will notice the first symptoms of hair loss by age 21. By the time they reach 50, about half of them will go through hair loss. As they continue to get older, about 70% start to lose hair. Whereas, hair loss in women is most likely to occur after menopause.
- Genetics: Variations in the AR gene of the X chromosome is linked to increased hairfall. Since both men and women have the X chromosome, they both have chances of developing alopecia.
- Hormones: Experts are of the opinion that there is a connection between the shrinkage of hair follicles and dihydrotestosterone or DHT (it is the hormone that gives rise to male characteristics). Some genetic changes make the hair follicles excessively sensitive to DHT. As a result, hair follicles can shrink leading to thinner hair.
- Hereditary: If there is a history of female or male pattern baldness in someone’s family then there is a chance that he/she may develop androgenic alopecia.
- Medications: If an individual is taking certain medications such as estrogenic oral contraceptives over a long period of time, he/she may notice signs of this condition.
- Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: Women who experience heavy bleeding during their menstruation can be at risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of Androgenic Alopecia
1. Basic symptoms of this condition in men :
- Receding hairline
- Hair loss on the crown
- Hair loss near the temples
2. Androgenic alopecia in women is noticeable in the following way:
- Thinning of hair along the crown of the scalp
- The front hairline usually remains unaffected
- Androgenic alopecia in females rarely progresses to total baldness as is typical for men.
Androgenic Alopecia Treatment: In Males and Females
Once your healthcare provider suspects you have androgenic alopecia, they will ask the person to be ready to undergo a few tests. For androgenic alopecia treatment to begin, the healthcare provider will use a tool called the densitometer to examine the scalp and measure the thickness of hair follicles. Post this, the healthcare provider will discuss a treatment plan with the person, which may include the following:
- Hair Transplant: The doctor may take skin grafts from other body parts containing healthy hair and move them to thin areas of the scalp.
- Medications: Over-the-counter medications may be suggested to the concerned individual to apply topically on the scalp.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma: The doctor may extract blood from the body, process it medically, and then inject it back into the scalp. Doing this can stimulate the hair follicles for growth.
- Hormone Therapy: If hormonal imbalance is the cause of hair loss then the doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy for progesterone or estrogen. The doctor may also advise antiandrogen medications that regulate hair loss and stop androgen production. Androgen is the hormone that can expedite the rate of hair loss in women.
- Nutritious Diet: Consuming a healthy diet may be able to promote hair growth naturally. Hair loss in females can be linked to iron deficiency. Doctors may recommend correcting this deficiency by either taking iron supplements or intaking an iron-rich diet.
Often androgenic alopecia is considered part of aging. But if you consult a doctor such as a dermatologist, they may be able to suggest ways to you that can regenerate hair growth or slow down the process of hair loss. If you notice male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness on the scalp, you should seek help from a healthcare provider right away to avoid hair loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Is there any difference between androgenic alopecia and telogen effluvium?
Ans: Yes, androgenic alopecia is a gradual process that requires treatment of some sort to slow down the process and regrow hair. Telogen effluvium, on the other hand, is temporary and there is aggressive shedding of hair in a short span of time. It is the response of the body after experiencing anything that is emotionally or physically stressful. This condition does not usually require treatment.
Q2. How common is androgenic alopecia in males, in India?
Ans: In India, it was found that about 58% of males in the age bracket 30-50 years suffered from androgenic alopecia.
Q3. At what age does androgenic alopecia appear in women?
Ans: The thinning of hair in women can occur anytime between the ages of 12 and 40 years.