Male pattern baldness, commonly known as androgenic alopecia, is the thinning of hair which loosens on the scalp and eventually falls out. It's the most common type of hair loss among men of all ages. Male pattern baldness develops gradually with the appearance of a bald spot on the crown of the scalp together with thinning of hair at the temples.
Medical experts attribute the cause of male pattern baldness to hormonal changes to the DHT or dihydrotestosterone. Due to hereditary genetic factors, the hair follicles of many men are very sensitive to DHT, and it can cause them to shrink. Eventually, hair follicles become so small that they cannot replace lost hairs. The follicles are still alive, but are no longer able to perform their task.
A number of other factors, both psychological and physical, can lead to hair loss. Stress, depression and anxiety can all cause you to lose your hair prematurely, while physical factors, such as illness or hormonal imbalance can also be a factor. The other common causes of hair loss include:
At the moment there is no cure for male pattern baldness because it's a genetic problem, as opposed to a virus or a lifestyle problem. There are, however, a number of treatments that can help you treat and prevent hair loss from occurring and can in fact help you to regrow most of your hair.
The main over the counter treatment is Minoxidil (sold as Regaine); a topical solution which works best on the crown of the head. Minoxidil comes in 2% and 5% solutions and can take up to a year for the maximum results to be achieved. Minoxidil needs to be applied twice a day and is unsuitable for men below the age of 16.
Plastic surgery may be the only permanent solution to male pattern baldness, although some treatments may need to be repeated at a later date. There are three common surgical options: transplant is where a surgeon moves non-sensitive hairs from the back of the head to the front; scalp reduction involves cutting away a small bald patch and stretching the unaffected scalp area over it; and flap-surgery, which involves stretching an unaffected area of scalp across over an area where hair is thinning.
Propecia is the most effective prescription treatment available for male pattern baldness. Propecia has been shown to halt hair loss in almost 99% of men taking it, with over two-thirds of them experiencing significant hair growth. Propecia comes as a tablet that you take every day. Side effects are uncommon, although about two in every 100 men who use it experience a temporary loss of libido.
There is no specific time to start using Propecia, but the sooner you start it, the more effective it is. If you use it when you notice your hair thinning, you have a better chance of growing all your hair back.
Though results aren't guaranteed, a diet rich in zinc, copper, iron, calcium, vitamin B-12 and B-7, can help slow or counter male pattern baldness. Vitamin A is good for stimulating hair growth because it helps your scalp to produce a natural oil, called sebum.
Vitamin B in the form of B3, B5, B6 and B12 works to produce thicker, healthier hair. Vitamin B can also be found in foods such as apricots, cabbage and egg yolk. Vitamin C allows the blood vessels in your scalp to carry more blood to your follicle roots, making them healthier.
The most common herbal treatment is saw palmetto which contains finasteride, an active ingredient in medications like Propecia. Studies have shown that saw palmetto is an effective anti-androgen, which acts in a similar way to Propecia by lowering the levels of DHT in the body, helping to prevent the shrinkage of hair follicles. Though no studies have been carried out on saw palmetto's relation to hair growth, it has shown its influence on the production of DHT in other conditions.