Male Pattern Baldness affects about 50% of men over the age of 30. This condition is caused by a genetic defect that causes hair follicles to stop producing hairs, leaving only thin vellus hairs behind. Every single day, millions of men begin to notice the early symptoms of male pattern baldness. As a matter of fact, 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 are already affected by moderate to extensive hair loss.
Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) affects about half of all adult male populations in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It's also known as "hereditary alopecia areata," because it seems to be inherited from one or both parents. In fact, more than 80 percent of cases seem to be due to genetics. Although MPB is not considered life-threatening, its effects can be devastating.
The most common symptoms include patchy areas of missing hair on the crown, temples and/or top of head. These patches may become larger with time and continue to expand until they cover up almost completely -- at which point surgery usually becomes necessary to treat severe cases. Left untreated, this form of hair loss can cause depression and anxiety among affected people.
One thing you should know before proceeding further is that there are many different types of hair loss conditions out there. And while some of them have similar symptoms, they're actually quite different from each other. For instance, telogen effluvium is a temporary type of hair loss that occurs during a woman's monthly cycle when her body releases excess hormones into the bloodstream. If she doesn't get any relief soon enough, her hair will start falling out. However, if the problem persists, the hormone imbalance could eventually affect her ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. Men who suffer from Telogen Effluvium often experience sudden patches of short, brittle hairs on their scalps, but these problems rarely last long. Another example would be Follicular Atrophy, where small clumps of hair begin to appear around your eyebrows and eyelashes. While this normally happens after years of using depigmenting creams, certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs can trigger it too.
If you've noticed patches of missing hair developing on your scalp or elsewhere, don't fret yet. There are several possible reasons why those bald spots are starting to show up, including the following:
Genetic predisposition - Your genes play an important role in how likely you'll develop hair loss. Some studies indicate that about 90 percent of cases of hereditary hair loss occur due to heredity. That means that if either parent has been diagnosed with MPB, then chances are pretty good that you'll probably end up experiencing it yourself later on down the road.
Dietary deficiency - A lack of vitamin B12, iron and folic acid can lead to hair loss. Make sure you eat plenty of foods rich in these nutrients every day so that your overall health stays strong.
Environmental factors - Living in extremely cold temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.01 C), living in very hot environments above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (+35 C) or engaging in vigorous exercise without adequate rest and sleep can also result in hair loss.
Medications - Certain prescription medicines used to manage pain and inflammation can sometimes induce hair loss. Check with your doctor if you think this might be the case.
Other medical conditions - Excessive smoking, poor hygiene, thyroid disease, pernicious anemia and lupus erythematosus are just a few examples of other illnesses that can contribute to hair loss.
Now let's look at what kind of treatment options exist for treating and preventing MPB. Read on!
Causes and Risk Factors for Male Pattern Hair Loss
There are two main forms of male pattern baldness: frontal and vertex. Frontal (also called frontotemporal) male pattern baldness accounts for 65 percent of all cases. Vertex (occurring at the center of the head) represents 35 percent of all cases. Other less popular names for the various varieties of male pattern baldness include diffuse, totalis, familial progressive alopecia and post-pubertal alopecia [sources: National Institute of Health].
In order to determine which particular variety of MPB someone suffers from, doctors need to perform specialized tests. They do that by taking a close look at the patient's family history, checking his blood pressure levels, looking at the size and shape of his skull and examining him under a microscope to check for abnormalities related to his immune system. Genetic testing can help confirm whether a person really does carry the gene responsible for his specific form of MPB.
So far we've talked mainly about adults who already have MPB. But did you ever hear of children being born with it? Yes, newborn babies can actually lose large amounts of hair within days of birth. This is especially true if the mother was herself afflicted with MPB. Since mothers pass along half of their genes to their offspring, the risk factor here is even greater. Fortunately, in infants this condition is fairly rare. Doctors call it congenital pattern baldness since it shows up before puberty hits. Children suffering from this early onset form of MPB grow up to be perfectly normal individuals.
A number of environmental factors have also been linked to MPB. Exposure to chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and organochlorine pesticides can increase the chance of developing MPB by affecting hormonal balance. Smoking cigarettes is another culprit. Studies have shown that cigarette smoke triggers production of free radicals that damage cells' DNA. Over time, damaged cells die off faster than healthy ones, resulting in fewer new hairs sprouting up. We mentioned earlier that exercising vigorously without getting enough shut eye can also speed up progression of MPB. Being overweight increases the likelihood of losing hair, so make sure you maintain a balanced diet and keep track of your weight throughout the year. Stress can also aggravate existing baldness.
But wait -- aren't there treatments available for guys dealing with MPB? Keep reading to find out!
Treatments for Male Pattern Hair Loss
Since MPB tends to manifest itself gradually rather than suddenly, it makes sense that patients wouldn't want to undergo radical procedures right away. Instead, doctors recommend waiting until the entire area involved in the process starts showing signs of shedding. Once that threshold is reached, however, several kinds of therapies can offer effective ways to deal with the problem.
The first step involves wearing hats whenever outside. Wearing hats helps protect against sun rays, wind and rain. Hats also add bulk to the scalp, making it appear healthier and fuller. You can wear them indoors too, especially if you spend lots of time in dark rooms. Use shade umbrellas or seek shelter beneath trees during sunny outings. When choosing a hat, consider lightweight materials such as wool or cotton instead of thick fabrics made of synthetic fibers. Synthetic fabric traps heat inside the hat instead of allowing it to escape through ventilation slits. Also avoid sweat-proof styles, which tend to trap moisture underneath them.
Another option is minoxidil, a topical medication that stimulates growth of new hair roots. Minoxidil comes in pill form and as a foam applied directly to the scalp. Side effects associated with minoxidil use include increased blood pressure, heartburn and nausea. To minimize side effects, apply minoxidil gel once daily and leave it alone overnight. If you decide to take oral tablets, consult a physician before doing so. Taking pills containing high doses of vitamins A, D and E can also strengthen hair roots and prevent hair loss.
Surgery is typically reserved for those whose hair loss covers a significant portion of their heads. With newer surgical techniques, surgeons now try to preserve as much of the patient's original hair as possible. One method entails removing mini-patches of skin from the back of the patient's head and stitching them together to create a flap. Then the surgeon uses the flap to lift up unaffected parts of the scalp. Next, he stitches the remaining areas closed. Not only that, but the procedure also allows for limited regrowth of hair in places where the man previously had none left. Though successful, this technique isn't always recommended because extensive scarring can result. More recently developed methods involve placing tiny implants under the scalp near the base of the hair shaft. Afterward, the implant slowly fills up with natural pigment granules found naturally in the human dermis layer. As a result, the color of the implanted hairs matches that of the surrounding hair.
While surgery is still viewed as a good way to combat MPB, researchers are constantly coming up with new alternatives. Take laser therapy, for example. Laser beams target melanocytes in the outer root sheath of the hair follicle. Melanocytes produce melanin pigmentation, which gives hair its color. By destroying melanocytes, lasers aim to slow or reverse MPB's progression. Results vary depending upon individual differences between patients. Patients must go through multiple sessions spread out over months or even years to achieve noticeable results. Still, laser therapy remains a viable alternative for those unwilling or unable to endure invasive surgeries.
In the last couple of decades, hair replacement system has been a popular choice for many men who suffered from MPB. Hairpieces offers an instant fix and refresh look in minutes and it is the reason why sctors, performers, politicians and other public figures have long used toupees to cover up hair loss, either convincingly or otherwise.
A good quality toupee can help to disguise thinning hair or a bald spot at your crown, all while maintaining a convincing, natural appearance. They’re typically cut and styled to match your hair and designed specifically to provide extra coverage while blending in with their surroundings.