Androgenetic Alopecia — Male Pattern Baldness
Although we see it almost every day—and for some of us, every day in the mirror—ask the average person on the street what androgenetic alopecia is and you’re likely to get some blank stares. In reality, androgenetic alopecia is actually extremely common, despite its exotic sounding name. Androgenetic alopecia is more commonly known as male pattern baldness.
Of course, this is a bit misleading as androgenetic alopecia can occur in women as well as men, but there is no denying that it is far more common in women. Let’s take a deeper look at androgenetic alopecia to get a better understanding of its causes, symptoms, outlook and treatment options.
What is Androgenetic Alopecia?
Considered the most common form of hair loss for men, androgenetic alopecia is colloquial referred to as “male pattern baldness.” It gets this name because of the generally defined pattern that androgenetic alopecia occurs in the head. Typically, an “M” shape appears starting over both the temples and gradually receding back towards the crown (commonly called the bald spot). These two receding and thinning fronts may or may not meet, depending on the individual’s genetic code.
When androgenetic alopecia occurs in women, the typical male-pattern baldness doesn’t occur, but rather hair all over the head becomes thinner. The hairline doesn’t recede and there is rarely the occurrence of complete baldness in women with androgenetic alopecia.
Implications of Androgenetic Alopecia
Aside from the balding patterns in men and women, androgenetic alopecia has also been linked to an increased risk for the development of:
Coronary heart disease
Insulin resistance related disorders (e.g. diabetes, obesity, etc.)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
PCOS in women (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Is Androgenetic Alopecia Common?
It is estimated that over 36 million men in the North America alone are afflicted with androgenetic alopecia, far outweighing the slight female population of afflicted. Androgenetic alopecia can start anywhere from the late teens and the amount of hair loss or risk of starting hair loss increases with age.
Common theories on the causes of androgenetic alopecia revolve around genetics. This means that androgenetic alopecia is inherited through genetic makeup, though environmental factors are thought to contribute to the onset and extent of androgenetic alopecia. Of course, just because a family member has androgenetic alopecia, it doesn’t mean their children or relatives will.
How Does Androgenetic Alopecia Develop?
Almost all modern research points to the AR gene being the cause of androgenetic alopecia. While this sets the table for androgenetic alopecia (so to speak), environmental factors likely have an influence in what is served for dinner. This means that unfortunately, the true recipe is unknown, but scientists are rapidly working towards—and making advancements at—getting answers.
To date, research suggests that androgenetic alopecia is related to androgens, a natural hormone inside the body. In particular, there is one androgen that contributes directly to hair loss: dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. While DHT and other androgens are important for sexual development while you are in the womb and throughout puberty (for example, they regulate sexual drive and hair growth), they become detrimental to the hair after a certain age.
That’s because hair typically grows for two to six years and then rests for a few months before falling out. This cycle then starts over as the follicle starts to grow a new hair in its place. Androgens alter the growth cycle, making it shorter, producing thinner and shorter hair. After some time, the follicle takes longer and longer to grow new hair and eventually, it stops trying altogether.
This is thought to occur due to variations in the AR gene, which is responsible for providing instructions to the body on how to make androgen receptors. Androgen receptors are a protein that dictates how your body reacts to DHT and other androgens. Androgenetic alopecia gets its name from this.
How to Treat Androgenetic Alopecia?
There are many ways to slow down and even reverse hair loss, especially during the early stages. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved drugs such as minoxidil and finasteride. These can be taken orally or applied topically and work by reducing the levels of DHT in the body and hair follicles. There are also hair transplant techniques which surgically remove a hair follicle from the back and sides of the head (which are genetically immune to the effects of DHT) and place them in the balding area.
There are new breakthroughs every day which excite those afflicted with androgenetic alopecia, hoping one day to see a complete cure. At Q Esthetics, we use laser hair loss treatment in conjunction with other techs effectively treat a wide variety of androgenetic alopecia, contact us to learn more.