What is male pattern baldness?
Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, impacts around 50% of men over the age of 50. Male pattern baldness is genetic and is associated with the male sex hormones, androgens. Androgens have many functions, one includes to regulate hair growth.
Each hair on your head has a growth cycle. With male pattern baldness, this growth cycle begins to weaken and the hair follicle shrinks, producing shorter and finer strands of hair. Ultimately, the growth cycle for each hair ends and no new hair grows in its place.
Genetic, or inherited male pattern baldness generally has no medical ill effects. Male pattern baldness has a distinct pattern which the hair loss occurs. The hair loss begins at the crown or temples. With some men limited to a single bald spot. Most others will have a gradual receding hairline which will lead to an “M” shape. This lost will continue to recede until most or all the hair is lost.
But baldness can be because of thyroid conditions, certain cancers, medications, and anabolic steroids, fungal conditions of the scalp or nutritional disorders, but these are not related to the cause of male pattern baldness, still they can speed up male pattern baldness. A skin biopsy or a blood test can be used to diagnose any problem that is responsible for the hair loss.
There are some treatments available for men that are unhappy with their appearance, and what to retain their hair. Some men can result to wearing a wig, hairpiece or weaves, or even undergoing micro dot pigments to cover up their bald spot. However, there are medical options that men can use to reduce and stall their male pattern baldness.
The two current standards for male pattern baldness treatments are Minoxidil and Finasteride. These can be used with a hair transplant, as well as micro dot pigments treatment, as well as a good hairstyle where your hairstylist will be able to cut your hair to make thinning hair look fuller.
Minoxidil, or better known by its commercial name of Rogaine is a topical medication applied to the scalp. The active ingredient of Rogaine, that of Minoxidil, has been showed to slows down hair loss for some men and stimulates the hair follicles to grow new hair. The results of the applications of Minoxidil takes around four months to one year to produce visible results. If the treatment is stopped the hair loss will return. Minoxidi does have some side effects that can range from problems such as burning, dry and brittle hair, irritation and scaling of the scalp. More serious effects that can occur are weight gain, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, swelling of the hands, ankles, face or abdomen, as well as labored respiration. If the latter side effects are present, you will need to speak to your doctor.
Finasteride which is the active ingredient of drugs like Propecia and Proscar is pill taken orally, that slows hair loss in some men. The way it works is by blocking the production of the male hormone responsible for hair loss. The application of Finasteride as compared to minoxidil is that it has a better success rate. You will need to take the drugs containing finasteride for three months to one year before you see results. If no hair growth occurs after one year, your doctor will likely recommend that you stop taking the medication. But the results with this product is not hair regrowth, more it is retaining the hair that you have as it works by blocking the hormones from damaging the hair roots. If, however, you stop taking finasteride, your hair loss will returns.
Finasteride, however, is not without some side effects. These can range from itching, a rash or hives developing, depression, enlargement of the male breast and tenderness of the breast, and swelling of the lips and face. Other side effects include problems getting and maintaining an erection, pain in the testicles or pain when ejaculating. More seriously, the research has indicated that in rare cases, finasteride can cause breast cancer.
Losing your hair can lead to low self-esteem, depression, or other emotional problems, as you have to deal with accepting your appearance. The newer medication treatments do allow for some relief, but they might not work for everyone and in the end you might just have to go through a process of accepting your new appearance and the association of loss of youth. Counseling, can be a wise choice for many men dealing with this change.