Many things can cause hair loss in humans, and most diagnoses have “alopecia” in their names. While environmental factors can lead to thinning hair and bald heads, genetics are responsible for the most common type of hair loss: androgenetic alopecia (AGA).
AGA is commonly known as male pattern baldness. It affects more than 95 percent of all men with hair loss. Some men lose their hair before they turn 21 years of age. More than two-thirds experience some measure of hair loss by age 35. By age 50, an overwhelming majority of men have considerable hair loss.
Hair Loss and Emotions
Although modern culture associates baldness with sexiness and virility, most men are unhappy about their hair loss. Thinning hair affects almost every part of their lives. While hair loss is not a mental disorder, it can cause great emotional distress. It can negatively impact relationships and careers.
Many products claim to prevent hair loss and restore hair growth, but not all of them are effective. Only two products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop hair loss and encourage regrowth. Just a few surgeons currently perform hair restoration to the highest standards. A frank discussion with a doctor is advisable before men pursue a hair loss treatment.
Common Hair Loss Causes
Many factors can contribute to hair loss in men. Illness or disease, medications, nutrient deficiencies and intense stress are possible reasons for hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia, however, is almost always the result of hormones and genetics.
Men with male pattern baldness inherit a sensitivity to DHT, a medical abbreviation for dihydrotestosterone. DHT is a derivative of testosterone, the chief male sex hormone. The 5 alpha-reductase enzyme, which is involved in steroid metabolism, converts testosterone into DHT. Elevated levels of scalp DHT results in damaged hair follicles.
While the genetic process of androgenetic alopecia is unclear, scientists think that DHT shrinks the hair follicles. When the hormone is suppressed, the hair follicles thrive. The right treatment can stop or slow the DHT conversion process and prevent hair loss.
Common Hair Loss Treatments
Finasteride and minoxidil are two medically-proven treatments for male pattern baldness. These FDA-approved drugs act as 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors to block DHT and prevent hair loss. Finasteride was originally developed to treat enlarged prostate glands, and minoxidil was developed to treat high blood pressure. Hair growth was an interesting side effect of these drugs.
Today, men use topical minoxidil to encourage hair growth. Minoxidil is an over-the-counter product. Finasteride, available only by prescription, is an effective DHT blocker. Unfortunately, these drugs have the potential for scalp irritation and sexual side effects such as low libido and erectile dysfunction (ED).
For some men, natural hair loss products are a better solution. Available in pill form as nutritional supplements, or as a topical foam or shampoo, these products are safe and produce few unwanted side effects. The best hair loss treatments contain ingredients that inhibit the 5 alpha-reductase, block DHT and support healthy hair.
Hair transplants are the most common surgical hair loss treatment. These procedures remove skin-and-hair plugs from healthy areas of the scalp and implant them into bald sections. Surgical scalp reduction is another treatment option. For men who do not respond well to drugs or hair restoration treatments, natural-looking wigs and hairpieces can cover hair loss.