Hair Loss - Causes Treatments and Medications

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A common problem amongst men and women, hair loss can be caused by a number of things such as hormonal imbalances, increasing levels of stress, lack of proper nutrients and other diseases. For most people, though, hair loss is caused by what doctors call adrogenetic alopecia and something as simple as aging. Three things trigger the occurrence of adrogenetic alopecia: a genetic predisposition to balding, an increased presence of male hormones and enough time for genetics and androgens to have an effect on hair follicles.

Just as genetics is a complicated concept to grasp, so are the chances of balding. For example, presence of balding in the mother or father’s side of the family is not always indicative of an individual experiencing hair loss. However, if a man winds up with a receding hairline in his before his thirties and also happens to have a father whom is balding, the chances of the man going bald are high. In this way, accurate predictions of balding and the rate in which it will happen are difficult to make.

The complicated and often uncertain nature of balding is the most important factor of planning hair restoration via surgical means and one should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario in order to produce the best results. Preparation for anything less could end with unfavorable results and must always be considered irresponsible.

 

Male “Androgenic” Hormones

A healthy man or woman will produce what is called Androgenic hormones, often referred to as “male” hormones, which include testosterone, adrosteinedione and DHT, also known as dihydrotestosterone. These hormones are produced by the reproductive systems of both men and women and are integral to both sexes in variant amounts. These hormones are responsible for the classification of genders with Androgenic hormonal levels obviously much higher in males.

The occurrence of pattern baldness in men and woman is caused by an exposure of hair follicles to DHT, with exposure taking place due to high concentrations of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme in the sebaceous glands of hair follicles. Since the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT, the DHT levels in the glands rise thus causing the hair loss. To combat the effects of this enzyme, an individual can opt to take Propecia (finasteride), one of the medical treatments now available in the market. Propecia works to prohibit the activity of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme thus reducing the DHT concentration in hair follicles.

Aging

Like mentioned earlier, balding is a process that can occur at any age and at various speeds depending on the genetics of an individual. Some may notice that they are losing their hair in their fifties, while others experience thinning hair in their twenties. The rate of the hair loss is also unpredictable with some experiencing rapid hair loss within months and others experiencing the process gradually over years. Only when the process is understood and accepted can a plan be created for the treatment of balding.

With each passing day, hair grows and ultimately, at a certain point in time, a haircut becomes a necessity. This necessity is caused by what the medical world calls the anagen phase or the active growth of hair. The passing of time plays a huge part in hair loss because aging combined with a genetic predisposal to hair loss and exposure to DHT leads to an infrequency of the anagen phase. As the active hair growth phase lessens, the hair loses color and becomes shorter and finer, a process called the miniaturization of hairs. The miniaturization of hairs does not mean hair loss though, rather the thinning of the hair. Because the hair follicles are thinner and are no longer as deeply colored, there is a lack of “coverage” and light easily reaches the scalp.

Additionally the hairs that are in the telogen phase, or the resting phase, grow in number. With more hair follicles in the telogen phase rather than the anagen phase, the individual becomes more prone to balding especially on the front of the scalp, as well as the crown and top of the scalp. On the head, however, there exists what is called the “permanent” zone. This is a u-shaped portion of the head, which extends around the back and side of the scalp, that is theoretically unaffected by the telogen phase. Since telogen hairs are so fragile, they are easily pulled out of the scalp and often wind up caught on combs or stuck on the bathroom drain after showering. Seeing this happen can be quite frightening for individuals especially if the man or woman is deemed to be too young to experiencing baldness of any kind.

Even if the rate and age of the occurrence of balding is hard to predict, there are a few different ways in which it progresses and affects the various parts of the head. Apart from male and female pattern baldness, earlier referred to as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia araeata, triangular alopecia, alopecia universalis, cicatricialalopecias and other “toxic” alopecia’s also exist. When it comes to alopecia areata, only patches of the head experience hair loss and is easily covered up.

For alopecia universalis however, the entire body experiences balding. Cicatricial alopecia’s are also called scarring alopecias and happen when there is scarring or inflammation while toxic alopecia’s are caused by chemotherapy or low thyroid and pituitary gland activity. Additionally there is something called diffuse alopecias, which can be patterned or not, wherein the thinning of the hair is so widespread that even the aforementioned “permanent” zone becomes susceptible to hair loss. Scalp biopsies, physical examinations and lab tests are recommended to identify these other types of balding.

In summation, balding can affect both men and women at different ages and different rates. Though balding can be caused by many things, genetic balding is caused by an increased presence of male hormones in hair follicles, DHT in particular. With high levels of DHT, miniaturization of hair and shortening of the hair growth cycle takes place.

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