Male Pattern Baldness: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know

Male-Pattern-Baldness
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Introduction

Some people prefer to wear their hair short – in some cases even completely cut off. For many people, this is an especially attractive trait. The majority of people, however, enjoy having hair on their head. Having hair on their heads allow them to explore different styles, to wear accessories and to create unique hairstyles that perfectly fits in with their sense of fashion.

Hair can be styled, dyed and more, but when hair starts to fall, things may change quite a bit. Yes, for many people, hair loss has become a frustrating problem.

Thinning hair, lost patches of hair, a receding hairline and many other problems occur when hair starts to fall out – and the effects of such a problem do not only affect a person physically but can also cause several psychological issues.

The hair that was relied on to help that person’s confidence is starting to fall out, and this can lead to self-esteem problems – not only that, but hair that is falling out may lead to unattractive patches on the scalp, which may further implicate a person’s confidence and how they feel about their physical appearance.

In this report, we are not going to talk about hair falling out in general, as we lose* some hair every day. Instead, we are going to focus on a particular condition that causes hair to fall out. The condition is often called Male Pattern Baldness, but this particular condition does not only affect men, but also women.

We are going to take a look at what exactly Male Pattern Baldness is and how it is classified, we are also going to consider its symptoms, the potential causes that may lead to the development of the condition, and consider the potential treatment options that are currently available for men and women suffering from Male Pattern Baldness.

What Is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern Baldness a type of alopecia that is called androgenetic alopecia. As the name of the condition suggests, male pattern Baldness causes hair loss in men. The condition can start out mildly and progress over the course of several years, or it can present itself as an aggressive condition and cause rapid hair loss in a relatively short period of time. It is important to understand that male pattern Baldness, even though it is classified under the autoimmune disorder known as alopecia
[1]
, is not technically a medical disease, but rather a condition that quite a large amount of men suffer from.

Male-Pattern-Baldness-Condition

WebMD[2] reports that, amongst men that suffer from hair loss, male pattern Baldness is the condition that causes the hair loss symptoms in over 95% of such cases. They also report that some men start to experience symptoms related to male pattern Baldness before they are 21 years of age, and the condition tends to affect around 66% of men at the age of 35.

Furthermore, as much as 85% of men who have reached the age of 50 suffers from symptoms related to this particular condition. These figures provide solid evidence that Male Pattern Baldness is a relatively common condition that affects more than half of the global male population.

The condition can be unpleasant and lead to significant changes in an affected person’s confidence levels, self-esteem and body image, as well as cause interference with their professional life.

Does Male Pattern Baldness Only Affect Men?

The name of the condition, being “male pattern Baldness”, makes people think that this particular condition only affects men. In reality, yes, Male Pattern Baldness refers to androgenetic alopecia (some people may refer to the condition as androgenic alopecia) that affects men, but this particular condition can affect women as well. When androgenetic alopecia affects a woman, it is called Female Pattern Baldness instead.

You may also find that, amongst women, the condition is sometimes called female pattern hair loss instead of “pattern Baldness”. This is because the symptoms that women experience when they suffer from this condition defers from the symptoms that men experience. While men tend to develop symptoms of bolding, women rather develops symptoms such as thinning hair, as well as a reduced* hair volume.

According to DermNet New Zealand[3], at least 40% of women do experience symptoms of female pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, when they reach the age of 50. They also report that, by 80 years of age, over 55% of women have lost some hair due to this particular condition.

Thus, while the condition is not as severe and prevalent among women than it is amongst men, it still affects quite a large number of women. For this reason, we should not only look at how this particular condition can affect a man’s life, but also consider the impact it may have on a woman’s life – especially since women often attends to their hair more than men do, and usually relies on their hair more than men do.

What Are The Symptoms Related To Male Pattern Baldness?

Symptoms-Of-Male-Pattern-Baldness

The symptoms of male pattern Baldness, as well as female pattern hair loss, may seem quite obvious, but there are some particular things to look out for if you wish to detect the condition at an early stage, which might help you slow the progression of the condition and avoid having no hair by the age of 50.

Since Male Pattern Baldness does not only affect a person in a physical manner, we also need to take a look at the particular psychological symptoms it may cause. Technically, the psychological symptoms are not in actual fact symptom of the particular condition, but rather effects that the condition has on the affected person’s mental health.

Physiological Symptoms Of Male Pattern Baldness

Male pattern Baldness[4] causes hair loss, we have already discussed this, but let’s take a look at how the symptoms of hair loss progress so that you can identify the particular condition easier. First of all, you should know that this condition is often divided into five grades, with the first grade being the stage of the condition where symptoms just start to develop. Stage five, however, refers to the phase of the condition where severe hair loss is experienced.

According to NY Times, male pattern Baldness starts at the hairline amongst men. The hairline would start to recede or move backward. After a while, the hairline often tends to form a shape that looks like an “M”. As the condition progresses, hair will become much thinner. A lot of people also find that their hair becomes shorter as hair starts to fall out. Eventually, the hairline will recede more and form a horseshoe shape on the head, often also said to resemble the shape of the letter “U”. At this point, the hair that is found on the side of the affected person’s head will also be affected.

Psychological Symptoms And Effects Of Male Pattern Baldness

We have already mentioned that androgenic alopecia causes several psychological effects as well. Now, it is vital to understand that these are not symptoms directly caused by male pattern Baldness, but rather psychological effects that the condition causes amongst the affected individuals due to how they start to feel about their thinning hair that is falling out, and their physical appearance.

To truly understand how androgenic alopecia affects both men and women psychologically, we should look at some questionnaires, review papers and studies that have been conducted by Universities and medical groups.

  • A study that was conducted by the Old Dominion University[5] in Norfolk explains that they found androgenetic alopecia has several adverse effects on the affected individual’s psychosocial abilities. They found that the condition affects their social processes, as well as their mental health, in several ways. Furthermore, they explain that stress is a particularly common symptoms amongst patients who are suffering from this condition.
  • A study published on ScienceDirect[6] also confirms that androgenetic alopecia has several disadvantages on the psychological well-being of affected men. They completed a questionnaire amongst a series of male participants. Some had mild bolding symptoms, some had more severe symptoms and the other had no signs of balding.

    They found that those with bolding symptoms had a significantly lower perception of their body image, and mentioned that the condition also led to additional stress. They did, however, also find that, when compared to the control group, other personality traits were not significantly affected.

  • A study by the Old Dominion University[7] in Norfolk wanted to explore how this condition affects men and women differently. They found that female participants were affected in a much more significant manner than men were. Still, adverse psychological effects were observed amongst both men and women. A poor body image, as well as a reduced* ability to adapt easily to social situations, were the most common complaints among those affected by androgenetic alopecia.

What Causes Male Pattern Baldness?

Causes-Male-Pattern-Baldness

While the symptoms of male pattern Baldness are mostly quite obvious, the causes are still very much misunderstood. There have been quite a large number of studies on this particular subject, and several aspects of the condition have been identified.

Yet, while contributing factors have been identified, medical scientists and dermatologists are still unable to provide a 100% accurate answer to the question: “What causes male pattern Baldness?”. They can, however, provide information that tells what aspects of a person might cause the disease to develop in time, but they do not yet know why it happens.

Before we look at the current knowledge about potential causes of androgenic alopecia, let us first discuss how hair and hair follicles work. This knowledge forms an important part of thoroughly understanding how the condition develops and how it may be caused by certain elements.

Drugs.com[8] explains that the skin contains many cavities that are known as follicles, sometimes also called hair follicles. Hair grows out of these follicles in certain parts of the body. In men, the follicles where hair grows out most include the head, under the arms and the genital region.

The arms and legs also contain hair follicles where hair grows out. The development of hair in these areas are dependent on male sex hormones, which stimulates the growth of existing hair, as well as the growth of new hair when existing hair falls out.

Each hair strand grows for up to six years. After its growing period, it will stop growing, but still remain intact with the hair follicle for some time, then it will fall out of the hair follicle and a new hair will start to grow in the particular follicle where the hair strand fell out.

Approximately 85% of the hair on our heads are in a growing stage, which means they are not older than six years. The rest of the hair, which accounts for 15%, have stopped growing and will fall out soon, which means a new hair strand will start to grow in their place.

When a man develops Male Pattern Baldness, the follicles where hair grows out starts to shrink. As they shrink, hair becomes finer and, at the same time, does not grow for as long as they should before they fall out. As time goes by, the follicle continues to shrink and, eventually, the follicle will stop functioning properly, which means a new hair strand will not grow out of the follicle after the current hair strands fall out.

Genetics As A Potential Cause Of Male Pattern Baldness

Genetics seem to play one of the most significant roles in male pattern Baldness, even amongst women. According to Mayo Clinic[9], heredity is also the most common potential cause associated with this condition. They also explain that, when genetics is responsible for the development of Male Pattern Baldness, the condition progresses gradually over a period of time, but can often be seen occurring at the same age between generations.

For example, if a man’s father was bold by the age of 45, then there is a chance that he will be bold by that age too. Furthermore, it is also important to note that studies have proven that genetics does not only play a part in the risk factor for androgenic alopecia and the age of onset, but also determines the progression of the condition.

Sex Hormones As A Potential Case Of Male Pattern Baldness

Dihydrotestosterone

In addition to genetics, certain hormones in the male body also seems to be blamable for the development of male pattern Baldness. In fact, according to Medical News Today[10], at least 50% of all men that suffers from this condition has male sex hormones to thank. The particular sex hormones that are potentially to blame for Male Pattern Baldness is known as dihydrotestosterone.

This particular type of male sex hormone is responsible for the development of male genitalia during the growth of a male baby in the fetus of his mother. Later in life, when the boy reaches the age where puberty starts, dihydrotestosterone is also responsible for the development of hair on the boy’s chest, under his arms, in his pubic area and, of course, his arms and legs.

Dihydrotestosterone also causes a boy’s voice to become deeper. In adulthood, dihydrotestosterone still plays some roles in the body. This particular hormone is produced from testosterone, but it is more powerful than testosterone. It is also responsible for the development of masculine features amongst men.

From what we have explained thus far, you might be wondering why dihydrotestosterone is a hormone that plays a role in male pattern Baldness when it is responsible for causing body hair to develop. Unfortunately, you are not the only one asking that particular question. Dermatologists and medical scientists have done extensive research on the particular topic and have not yet been able to discover a completely accurate answer to why dihydrotestosterone causes hair follicles on the head to miniaturize, yet it is responsible for the growth of hair elsewhere on the human body.

There are some theories going around that scientists believe might be the potential factors that causes dihydrotestosterone to contribute to male pattern balding. For example, they believe that the number of DHT receptors found at hair follicles in men with this condition is increased, and the level of DHT developed in the body is also higher amongst those with male pattern Baldness.

Metabolic Syndrome Might Be A Contributing Factor To Male Pattern Baldness

If you have been doing some research on Male Pattern Baldness, then you have surely seen some associations being made between this condition and metabolic syndrome. For most people, it would seem strange to associate a disorder that relates to weight features with the condition that causes bolding amongst both men and women, but a definite association between these two have been discovered and should not be ignored.

At the same time, it is important not to only associate metabolic syndrome with being overweight or obese, but to consider all of the diseases and disorders that form part of this condition. According to Mayo Clinic[11], metabolic syndrome consists of a wide range of health conditions, which includes:

Abdominal-Obesity

In 2014, the Menoufiya University[12] in Egypt conducted a comparison study to determine whether an association between metabolic syndrome and male pattern Baldness would only be a myth or rather a reality.

The study looked at various features of the participants, including body weight, height, waist circumference, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, fasting glucose levels, triglyceride levels, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, fasting insulin levels and also assessed the participants for insulin resistance.

At the end of the study, the researchers found a strong relation between metabolic syndrome and male pattern Baldness amongst the individuals that participated in the study. A study that was conducted by the Government Medical College[13] in India also found that the onset of symptoms related to androgenic alopecia in young men may be a marker that signals the development of metabolic syndrome, which may occur later in their lives.

Prostaglandin D2

Scientists are continuously conducting experiments and performing medical studies to determine additional causes of Male Pattern Baldness. This helps them gain an advantage when it comes to developing more effective treatment options to help slow down or, ultimately, stop hair loss, as well as to assist with hair regrowth. Recently, a new potential cause was discovered, and is reported on WebMD[14].

The discovery was made during a medical research project where the students studied the actual condition. The group found that individuals who suffered from androgenic alopecia had a much higher concentration of a particular protein, known as prostaglandin D2, present on the top of their scalp. When compared to levels of prostaglandin D2 on the scalps of men who do not exhibit signs of male pattern Baldness, they found that the levels are, in fact, significantly higher amongst those with hair that is falling out.

How Is Male Pattern Baldness Diagnosed?

Male pattern Baldness is the primary cause of hair loss in men and affects many women. The condition does not cause sudden patches of hair to fall out and is not accompanied by additional symptoms. For these reasons, it is often considered relatively easy to determine if a person is suffering from this particular condition. This also means that male pattern Baldness can be self-diagnosed by the affected individual.

When hair lines are receding with no other supporting symptoms, then the particular person most likely has male pattern Baldness, or, as it is also called, androgenic alopecia.

Even though self-diagnosis is possible, a doctor would always be able to provide a more accurate diagnosis and help a patient understand whether or not they are actually suffering from male pattern Baldness, or if it could be another underlying condition that is causing the symptoms, such as another type of alopecia.

When Should A Patient Avoid Relying On Self-Diagnosis?

Stages-Of-Male-Pattern-Bladness

Due to the obvious signs and symptoms associated with androgenic alopecia, it is often possible to self-diagnose the problem. Hair starts to fall out, the hairline forms an M and, eventually, the condition progresses and causes a U shape instead, also affecting the hair on the sides.

In some cases, however, hair loss may be caused by another problem that may even be a more serious health concern. Thus, if the symptoms include those associated with androgenic alopecia, but acts at a more aggressive progression rate, or is accompanied by additional symptoms, a person should consider consulting a medical professional to perform an examination and to ensure there is no serious underlying cause that is causing the symptoms, instead of male pattern Baldness.

Mayo Clinic[15] recommends seeking medical advice if you notice a sudden loss of hair instead of gradually losing hair. The sudden appearance of a patch on the head where hair has fallen out is also a concern for medical attention. Furthermore, if more hair is lost during combing or washing than usual, you may also want to seek an examination from a doctor to address any potential underlying problems.

Can Male Pattern Baldness Be Treated?

Before we get into the treatment methods that are currently available for both men and women with androgenic alopecia, it is very important first to note that this particular condition cannot be cured at the moment. This, however, does not mean you’ll simply have to accept the fact that your hair is falling out and live a bold life forever, as many treatment options are available that can help you effectively treat* the symptoms of the condition.

According to Men’s Fitness[16], the majority of treatments on the market have been proven to be ineffective in thoroughly treating male pattern Baldness, especially when the condition is caused by dihydrotestosterone.

There are, however, three options that do provide positive results when used as prescribed or conducted by an experienced professional. Let’s take a look at these three options and consider the pros and cons that each of them has in store for the patient.

5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors

The first option that will be presented to a patient with male pattern Baldness is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor, with the most common type being finasteride. This product is usually sold under the brand Propecia. Testosterone in the body is converted to dihydrotestosterone through an enzyme with the name 5-alpha-reductase.

What this product does is it inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone by blocking the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme’s abilities. Note that the product does not completely stop the process as this may lead to adverse side-effects, but only blocks around 70% of the conversions.

Unfortunately, this particular treatment option often comes with unpleasant side-effects. Men often find that they develop symptoms of erectile dysfunction when they use this particular treatment option. Ejaculation problems is also a common side-effect, as well as symptoms related to depression.

Topical Cream

There are numerous topical creams being promoted as solutions to stop hair loss and lead to the regrowth of hair, but none of the really works – except for one in particular, known as minoxidil. This particular product is usually sold as Rogaine. It works as a fertilizer for the follicles by improving* the vasodilation of the hair follicles. In turn, this may cause the hair to grow for a longer period of time.

Some people have also found that the topic solution increases* the thickness of vellus hearts. This particular treatment, however, does not treat* the underlying cause of male pattern bolding. To make this method more successful, a lot of men tend to combine the use of Rogaine with Propecia, which treats* the problem from the inside and the outside; thus acting as a double-acting solution.

It is important to understand that the topical cream solution does not work for everyone. About 35% of men who use Rogaine is able to experience a reduction* in the rate at which their hair fall out and only approximately 10% of users find that their hair starts growing back when they use this product. It does, however, seem to work more effectively when a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor is also used.

Hair Transplantation

Hair-Transplantation

The third and final scientifically-proven effective way for treating male pattern Baldness would be hair transplantation. In the older days, the process was quite invasive and the end results were not something to be proud about. Today, however, new technology and techniques are utilized to offer better results.

Doctors now extract follicle units, which consists of up to five hair strands, from the area of the patient where hair is still growing normally, and then transplants these units into the parts where hair is not growing. When opting for hair transplantation, it is important to realize that such a procedure can cost over $7,000, but it has a relatively high success rate, which makes it worth the money for many patients.

Conclusion

Hair plays an important part of the self-esteem and positive body images that many people uphold. Unfortunately, however, excessive hair loss is a relatively common problem amongst a global population. Amongst all the conditions that may lead to hair loss, androgenic alopecia, or male pattern Baldness, seems to be the most prevalent, affecting as much as 95% of men who suffers from hair loss.

The condition can also affect women, and seems to have a bigger psychological affect amongst them. Several treatment options are available to help slow down the progression of the condition, with only some of them being truly effective, but, at the moment, androgenic alopecia is classified as an incurable disease.

We recommend taking precaution and preventative measures, and to find medical advice and possible treatment measures from a doctor when the symptoms of such a condition starts to appear.

References

[1] http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/alopecia-areata#1
[2] http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-loss-introduction-mens
[3] https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/female-pattern-hair-loss/
[4] http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/male-pattern-baldness/overview.html
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10583042
[6] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/019096229270http://www.webmd.com/men/news/20120321/male-pattern-baldness-the-cause#11342
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8408792
[8] https://www.drugs.com/male-pattern-baldness.html
[9] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/causes/con-20027666
[10] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/68082.php?page=1
[11] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/home/ovc-20197517
[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144211/
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4738480/
[14] http://www.webmd.com/men/news/20120321/male-pattern-baldness-the-cause#1
[15] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/symptoms/con-20027666
[16] http://www.mensfitness.com/styleandgrooming/fashion/your-diabolical-follicles-treating-male-pattern-baldness

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Author

Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.

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