This is the most common form of baldness and is seen predominately in men, though some females can also be affected. The condition is known as ‘male pattern baldness’, ‘female pattern hair thinning’ or ‘Androgenic Alopecia’.
The following narrative explains ‘Male Pattern’ hair thinning.
Male pattern baldness affects at least 50% of the adult male population, caused by physiological changes in the hair follicle, where hairs are produced. In certain areas of the scalp hair follicles begin to produce hairs of a shorter growth cycle; with each succeeding cycle, thinner hairs are produced. Such hair loss is induced by hormones, called Androgens, circulating in the blood stream. These hormones are used to stimulate growth, primarily a characteristic of the male, in order to increase masculinity. This growth includes hair growth on the face, trunk and limbs. The Testes under the direction of the Pituitary gland mainly manufacture androgens. To a lesser extent, androgens are produced by the adrenal glands in both males and females.
Androgen hormones increase hair growth on the face, trunk and limbs but slow down growth on the scalp, this helps explain why men can retain a hairy chest while still going bald on their head. It is only a genetically predisposed person who may suffer androgenic alopecia. This means the onset and progression is genetically determined.
Male hormones are at there highest level in the blood stream during the late teens and early twenties and this leads to development of the body hair in this period. From the late twenties there is a gradual decrease in the production of male hormone and by the mid-forties, they have little or no effect on the hair follicle. Therefore, if a man still has a full head of hair by the time he reaches 45, he is likely to keep it. However, some health problems, medications or nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate hair thinning. Development depends on age, presence of androgens and genetic predisposition. The onset is characterized by its M-shaped recession at the front of the hairline and oval or skullcap baldness at the crown. Exact pattern and degree of the hair loss in a particular person is unpredictable, although some indication may be found in the appearance of close family members. What happens in the case of male pattern baldness is that the male hormone slows down cell division at the root, shrinking and reducing the number of hair follicles. As the follicles become smaller, so the hairs they produce become finer with slower shorter growth periods. The growth phase is thus reduced whilst the resting phase is lengthened. In fact the early stages of the balding process are characterised by ’thinning hair’.
The initial effect is a loss of quality rather than quantity. It is later on in the process that actual loss of numbers becomes significant. The rate at which hair loss occurs in the early years will dictate the extent of which the hair loss will finally reach. Once the hair follicle is no longer able to produce a hair, it will no longer be visible. The chances of a response to treatment for this type of baldness, when it reaches this stage, are therefore highly unlikely. Studies carried out on the hereditary aspect of hair loss are not well documented but suggest that paternal inheritance is probably more a factor than the maternal side. It is also important to note that studies on male and female balding are always on going and, as such, new information is often available.