Treating male pattern baldness

Losing your hair can feel like you're losing your identity and many men believe that hair loss is just a fact of growing old. While it's true that hair loss is completely normal, commonly during the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle, a sudden and dramatic loss of hair could indicate an underlying medical condition.

What is the cause of male hair loss?

There are many factors that could cause hair loss such as stress, diet, tight hairstyles, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research has determined that the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) plays a considerable role in male pattern hair loss.

DHT is the result of an enzyme (5-alpha reductase) which converts testosterone in the cells of the hair follicle to promote the growth cycle. When too much dihydrotestosterone is created, it shortens the growth cycle and inhibits the growth of new hair. The resting period, during which the hair is shed to allow new hair to grow from the follicle, remains the same.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune response which attacks the hair follicles and causes hair to fall out.

If caught early, male pattern hair loss can be treated effectively.

How can I treat it?

Eating healthily and exercising regularly can reduce your risk of hair loss while also helping to reduce stress levels and improve your overall well-being. However, androgenic alopecia is not caused by, nor can be treated with, changes in your lifestyle. If you are experiencing sudden hair loss, talk with your GP about appropriate treatments.

One of the treatments they might suggest is Propecia. This pill is taken daily to combat the amount of dihydrotestosterone in the body and halts the loss of hair. Clinical trials have shown that, after 2 years of use, 83% of finasteride users experienced no further hair loss. If the treatment is stopped, however, the hair loss will resume so the drug is only effective so long as it's being administered daily.

Another popular treatment called minoxidil (Rogaine) lotion can be massaged into the scalp for a similar effect. While it acts faster and produces noticeable results in just a few months, it is has a lower efficacy (50%) in studies. 33% of men using minoxidil saw no effect.

Future hair loss treatment

A recent study into finding an alternative hair loss treatment showed promising results. They found that the drug Cyclosporine A (CsA), which is used to treat osteoporosis, had an adverse side effect of hair growth. CsA reduces SFRP1, a protein that inhibits hair growth. Another compound, WAY-316606, was also found to suppress SFRP1 when applied to follicles in a lab. Furthermore, the result was greater than either midoxinil (Rogaine) or finasteride.

Future studies into this potentially revolutionary treatment are needed, but Dr Hawkshaw of Manchester University is hopeful about his breakthrough saying:

"The fact this new agent, which had never even been considered in a hair loss context, promotes human hair growth is exciting because of its translational potential: it could one day make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss."

Male pattern hair loss is common and temporary in most cases and often reversible, if it's a result of stress or an unbalanced diet. If you are concerned about your hair loss, speak to your GP.