Male pattern baldness, a.k.a. androgenic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in men.

Considerations

The scalp contains around 100,000 hairs. Each hair has a growth cycle and men lose approximately 100 hairs every day. With male pattern baldness, this growth cycle begins to weaken and the hair follicle shrinks, producing shorter and finer strands of hair. Eventually, the growth cycle for each hair ends and no new hair grows in its place.

Causes

The main causes of hair loss are the following:

HEREDITY

The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness. It usually occurs gradually and in predictable patterns — a receding hairline and bald spots in men.

Male pattern baldness can begin as early as puberty. About 80% of all men show signs of male pattern baldness at the age of 70.

PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL STRESS

Physical or emotional stress can cause the fall of half to three quarters of the hair on the scalp. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. The hair tends to come out in bunches when the shampoo is applied, the hair is combed or the hands are passed through the hair. You may not notice this for weeks or months after the stress episode. The change of hair will decrease after a period of 6 to 8 months. Telogen effluvium is usually temporary, but occasionally it may be prolonged or even become chronic.

The causes of this type of hair loss are:

  • High fever or severe infection
  • Major surgery, serious illness, sudden bleeding
  • Intense emotional stress
  • Drastic diets, especially those that do not contain enough protein.
  • Drugs, including retinoids, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, certain antidepressants, NSAIDs (including ibuprofen)

OTHER CAUSES

Other causes of hair loss, especially if it is an unusual pattern, include:

  • Alopecia areata (patches of baldness that occur on the scalp, the beard and possibly the eyebrows, the eyelashes can also fall)
  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune disorders such as lupus
  • Burns
  • Certain infectious diseases such as syphilis
  • Hormonal changes
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Radiotherapy
  • Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp)
  • Tumor of the ovarian or adrenal glands

Can you prevent or avoid hair loss?

There is no way to prevent male pattern baldness because it is a genetic trait, which means that you inherited a gene for baldness.

Some other causes of excessive hair loss can be prevented through eating a nutritionally balanced diet (getting adequate protein and iron); reducing stress; using hairstyles that don’t damage your hair; avoiding compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair; treating your hair gently when washing. You can also talk to your doctor and avoid taking any medications that could cause hair loss.

Treatment for hair loss

Depending on your type of hair loss, there are treatments available. If a medication is causing your hair loss, your doctor may prescribe a different medication. Recognizing and treating an infection can help stop hair loss as well as correcting a hormonal imbalance.

Medications can also help delay or prevent the development of common baldness.

  • Minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), is a foam / lotion based medicine available without a prescription. It is applied on the scalp. Both men and women can use it. Minoxidil seems to enlarge hair follicles and stimulate hair growth.
  • Finasteride is available by prescription. It comes in tablets and is only for men. Finasteride blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone considered the major culprit in male pattern baldness. The results of these medications are not immediate and the medication only works as long as it is used.

Finally, there is also the option of resorting to a hair implant operation to solve or alleviate hair loss.