Some amount of hair loss is natural at any age and most men experience hair loss as part of the natural process of ageing. Hair loss can become a cause for concern when you experience diffused shedding of hair, patchy hair loss or progressive thinning or balding. These symptoms accompany a hair loss condition known as 'alopecia.'
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is a medical term used for describing baldness or hair loss in men or women. There can be various causes for this common hair loss condition and it is classified into various types, depending on the symptoms. Alopecia may be caused by certain auto-immune conditions such as AIDS and lupus. Other conditions such as hypothyroidism and or fungal conditions such as ringworm could also be responsible for alopecia. Eczema is also known to result in hair loss.
Which men are more prone to male pattern baldness?
Male pattern hair loss generally affects those men who are genetically predisposed to it. It occurs when the levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, rise after puberty. This testosterone is transformed into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) due to the action of an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase. DHT adversely affects your hair follicles by slowing down the production of hair and making your hair shorter and weaker. In some cases, DHT can even prevent hair growth completely. This process gradually results in total hair loss.
Androgenetic alopecia vs. alopecia areata
Also known as male pattern hair loss, androgenetic alopecia is a hair loss condition that primarily affects men. It is characterized by a diffused and distinctive loss of scalp hair that starts when you are in your twenties or early thirties.
Androgenetic alopecia occurs according to a definite pattern, beginning above your temples, while your hairline recedes in the form of a typical 'M' shape. You also experience extensive hair loss on the top of your head, which can be either partial or total. Depending on the level of testosterone – the androgenic hormone in your body – male pattern hair loss can be linked to a combination of hormonal and genetic factors.
Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss that occurs in spots, either on the scalp or on other parts of the body. Hair loss in this condition tends to be quick and often occurs on one side of the scalp. This condition affects both men and women, and is quite different from androgenetic alopecia because it is not caused due to genetic factors. This hair loss condition is the result of an auto-immune disorder which causes the antibodies to react against hair follicles and attack them as though they were foreign body.
Hair loss treatments
Androgenetic alopecia is an extremely common genetic condition, but sometimes its medical treatment becomes inevitable. The mechanism of action for finasteride is tied to testosterone, the hormone that is metabolized by type II 5 alpha-reductase to DHT in the root of the hair follicle. DHT is thought to be responsible for male-pattern baldness. Finasteride can competitively reduce the levels of DHT in your hair follicle. The oral dose in men is 1mg once daily, without regard to meals; females and children must not use this medication.
Alopecia areata can be treated, particularly if it is addressed during the early stages. Treatment options include steroids, local injections, topical ointments and sensitizers, photochemotherapy and prescription medications also help stimulate re-growth of lost hair. These treatment options, however, may not prevent the formation of new patches or really cure the underlying condition. Consult your doctor in order to determine the best treatment option for you.