Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern hair loss is also known as androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness. It is related to hormones in both males and females. There tends to be a genetic predisposition with male pattern hair loss. So if your father or grandfather suffered from male pattern hair loss then it is most likely you will too. Up to 70% of men will be affected at some point in their life by male pattern hair loss.
Androgenic Alopecia, most commonly referred to as male pattern baldness, or simply MPB, is a condition experienced by men with respect to hair loss. Recent statistics indicate that the condition affects more than 50% of men aged 50 or over, as per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If you believe that you are currently suffering from male pattern baldness, then we would suggest reading our compressive guide.
We’ll start by exploring just what male pattern baldness actually is, followed by an explanation as to some of its most common causes. We will also cover a range of signs and symptoms of male pattern baldness, so that you have a full understanding of the condition in its entirety. Let’s start by ascertaining what male pattern baldness is.
What is male pattern baldness?
Male pattern baldness, referred to in the medical profession as androgenetic alopecia, is a hair loss condition that affects more than 50% of men that are aged over 50 years old. The condition is something that usually occurs gradually over time, with studies suggesting that this most commonly begins just above the temples. As the condition increases in severity, the individual’s hairline will sometimes resemble that of an “M” shape.
A further common result of male pattern baldness sees the individual experience thinning at the top of the head (crown), which can lead to partial baldness or in some cases, complete baldness.
Although hair loss can be experienced by both men and women of all ages, it is vastly more common in males. Essentially, male pattern baldness differs to that of female pattern baldness, insofar that generally, females do not experience a receding hairline. On the contrary, they usually begin to see thinning across the head in its entirety.
To give you an idea as to what male pattern baldness might look like, we have broken down some of the main symptoms and signs.
The most common symptoms and signs of male pattern baldness
As there are a range of different ways that hair loss can appear, it is important to understand why you might be suffering from MPB. Moreover, whilst some experience gradual hair loss over time with age, others experience it suddenly. Take a look at the following list of signs and symptoms regarding male pattern baldness.
Thinning at the top of the ahead that appears gradually
If you are currently experiencing a gradual loss of hair that has increased over time, then this is the most common form of male pattern baldness. In fact, this is also most common in females too. Males sometimes begin to notice a receding hairline that may look like the letter M. If this is the case, then the receding process starts from the forehead.
Particular bald spots that look somewhat circular or patchy
Although slightly less common than gradual thinning in the form of a receding hair line, some males experience patchy or circular bald spots that are often a similar size and shape to a coin. If this is the case, men usually begin to experience bald spots from the top of the scalp. However, in some cases, this can also extend to the individuals eyebrows and/or beard. Some men also experience a somewhat itchy sensation around the affected area of skin, prior to the hair falling out.
Sudden hair loss or loosening of the hair
In some cases, male pattern baldness can occur suddenly. Those affected might experience handfuls of hair falling out when performing everyday tasks, such as washing the hair or combing. If this is the case, rather than appearing as a bald spot or patch, hair loss is usually experienced all over. It is widely believed that sudden hair loss is a direct result of emotional or physical shock, or even ongoing stress.
Bald patches that spread
A further common form of male pattern baldness is experienced over the scalp, in the form of scaling patches. In certain cases this might be a direct result of ringworm. Additional symptoms include swelling and redness, or broken hair.
So now that we’ve covered some of the most common forms of male pattern baldness, we are now going to take an exploratory approach as to its potential causes.
Side effects of medical treatment
Although not specific to the head per-say, hair loss is sometimes a direct result of unrelated medical conditions or treatment. For example, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can result in hair loss through the body, including on the head.
The underlying causes of male pattern baldness
Hair loss is an event that is experienced by men and women of all ages. For example, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that people loss on average between 50 and 100 hairs per day. Known as “Hair Shedding”, when individuals exceed these levels on a significant basis, they may suffer from Telogen Effuvium, otherwise referred to as excessive hair shedding.
Although it is believed that there are a number of potential causes that can lead to male pattern baldness, it is important to note that many factors still remain unknown. As a result, it is highly relevant to ascertain some of the characteristics that affect hair growth.
First and foremost, the hair growth process initially begins under the skin, formed by structures known as follicles. Studies suggest that a strand of hair continues to grow for a period of 2-6 years. After this and prior to the hair eventually falling out, the strand of hair enters a resting phase, which generally lasts for a few months.
Moving forward, this particular hair cycle begins in the follicles and ultimately, repeats itself over time. However, there are some fundamental factors that can determine the underlying duration of each hair growth cycle.
This most commonly centres on the amount of androgens pertinent to the individual in question. In a nut shell, androgens are male sex hormones, and they have a range of functions, including the regulation of an individual’s hair growth.
Whilst lower levels of androgens can lead to longer cycles of hair growth, on the contrary, higher levels can shorten the cycle. If the individual experiences the latter, then the subsequent hair growth might lead to thinner and shorter strands of hair. Furthermore, short cycles can also result in the replacement of new hair being delayed.
To continue on from the above discussion, studies also suggest that a variation in a gene known as “AR”, has a direct effect on male pattern baldness. Essentially, this particular gene has the potential to create a specific protein, which is known as an “androgen receptor”.
The role of genetics in male pattern baldness
Although scientific studies date back many decades, there is no definitive answer on whether or not genetics can be solely responsible for male pattern baldness. However, it is widely accepted that DNA still plays major role in determining if the condition will develop. Continuing on from the previous discussion on the protein-generating androgen receptor, which has a direct effect on male baldness, evidence suggests that this particular gene-type does carry a link to genetic hair loss. It is important to recognise that these genetic variants are somewhat complex.
Ultimately, whilst inheriting male pattern baldness is potentially a risk factor, not least because studies show that the condition often clusters within families, other environmental factors are also likely to play their part.
Solutions to combat the signs of malta pattern baldness
There are a range of techniques that can be applied if you are currently suffering from male pattern baldness. Whilst the condition is physical per-say, it can also lead to psychological concerns, which mainly center on the male feeling self-conscious. If this is the case, then it is well worth considering some of the following.
Choosing a hairstyle that will cover the effects of male pattern baldness
If your male pattern baldness is in its early stages, or the amount of hair loss is somewhat minimal, you may be able to speak with your hair dresser to apply a new hairstyle that has the potential to cover the loss. Certain creative cuts might be ideal in this particular scenario.
Are there any medications that can be applied to help male pattern baldness?
If the above options do not suffice, then there are also a range of medications that might be suitable. One such medication is Minoxidil (Rogaine). This particular medication is applied to the top of the scalp. In some cases, this can have a positive effect on two main fronts. Firstly, some men experience a new stimulation in the hair follicles, which strengthen the remaining hair. Secondly, the medication can also have the effect of slowing hair loss.
Those that decide to take Minoxidil often do not see visible results for at least 4 months, sometimes up to a year. Furthermore, if you stop taking Minoxidil, it is likely that your hair loss will resume. It is important to note that medications such as Minoxidil also have some potential side effects.
This usually centres on irritation or dryness around the scalp, with some patients experiencing a slight burning sensation. In rarer cases, more serious side effects such as weight gain, chest pain, swelling around the face and a rapid heartbeat, have also been reported. You should contact a doctor immediately if you encounter any of the aforementioned side effects.
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)
An additional medication that is often used by those suffering from male pattern baldness is Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar). With the view of slowing done the speed of hair loss, this particular medication is taken in the oral form. The concept behind Finasteride is that is targets the hormone that is responsible for hair loss, by blocking its production.
Much like in the case of Minoxidil, hair loss is likely to return when the individual stops taking Finasteride. In most cases, men do not experience results for at least three months, however this can take up to a year.
There are also a range of potential side effects that men must be made aware of prior to taking Finasteride. This can include an itching sensation around the affected area, as well as a rash. Moreover, some men report symptoms of depression upon taking the medication. In more severe cases, potential side effects of taking Finasteride also include painful ejaculation or pain in the testicles, breast growth, swelling around the face and difficulties getting an erection. Some patients also report loss of libido, impotence, and increase in size of male breasts. More importantly to know, is that despite most of these cases are usually temporary, there were reported cases where such issues remain permanent or take much longer to resolve.
That is the main reason we do not usually offer this as an option for treatment
Hair transplant to assist with male pattern baldness
Although hair transplants date back to the early 1950s, modern techniques are significantly more advanced. Moreover, there are a range of different methods that can now be utilized.
If the hair transplant is based on Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), then the individual will have a strip of skin removed the back of their head, usually between 6-10 inches. The removed skin is then divided in to ultra-small grafts. These grafts are then placed in newly created slits.
A different method that is also utilized by surgeons is follicular unit extraction (FUE). Instead of removing skin from the back of the patient’s head, FUE proceeds to shave the back of the scalp. Next, hair follicles are then delicately removed one by one. Once this has been actioned, the procedure then follows a similar method to FUSS, insofar that small holes are created and then the hair grafts are placed inside the slits.
In most cases a hair transplant usually takes in the region of 4-8 hours to complete, however this will ultimately depend on the patient’s individual circumstances. Once surgery is complete, the transplanted hair normally falls out 6-8 weeks later, subsequently allowing new hair growth to occur.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can stress cause male pattern baldness?
Various studies have shown that there could be a direct correlation between stress and male pattern baldness. The key reason for this is that stress can lead to an increase in the amount of sex hormones being produced in the body. Although it doesn’t seem that stress directly causes hair loss, there are factors that indicate stress can speed up the rate of hair loss.
What are the main causes of male pattern baldness?
There could be a range of factors that contribute to make pattern baldness. In some cases it could be linked to genetics, especially if the individual has a family history of baldness. It is also believed that stress can play a role.
At the other end of the spectrum, male pattern baldness could be a result of more serious causes. This can include medications, thyroid conditions and even certain cancers. In this sense, it is also best to talk with a surgeon, so that they can perform a full diagnosis.
Are there any tips to prevent the effects of male pattern baldness?
It is important to note that if the male baldness is a direct cause of genetics, then the following tips will not prevent hair loss.
- When washing your hair, treat the hair gently to avoid pulling out your hair.
- Avoid medications that potentially lead to hair loss.
- Tight hairstyles such as ponytails or braids should be avoided.
- Avoid using certain hair products such as hair straighteners or hot rollers.
What are the most common forms of male pattern baldness?
Male pattern baldness can vary depending on the individual, however there are some common factors. Some men experience a receding hairline, resulting in an “M” shape forming. Others begin the hair loss process at the temples of the head, or simply get a single bald spot. Ultimately, hair loss can continue until the vast majority of hair is gone.
How do I know if I am suitable for medication or a hair transplant?
It is highly advisable to contact one of our specialists. By engaging in a one-on-one consultation, the surgeon will be able to assess your individual needs. It will be at this point that they will be able to advise the best course of action.