Roger had always been proud of his thick, shiny, full head of hair, and he never hesitated to spend time and money maintaining it. So when he noticed his hairline receding at his temples and thinning on top, he was heartbroken – and committed to understanding male-pattern baldness and finding a way to fight it.
Although male-pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men, it’s not the only type. And hair loss isn’t restricted to men. Women may experience female-pattern baldness, which generally affects the entire scalp and produces overall thinning. In both men and women, this type of hair loss, called androgenetic alopecia, is usually permanent and hereditary. With age, the hair’s growth cycle shortens, and the hairs become weaker and fall out more easily.
Other types of hair loss include: Alopecia areata. It appears as small round patches of baldness, and is believed to be an autoimmune disorder (when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues). There is no known cause, although a family history of the condition increases the risk. You may lose and regrow hair several times, but the loss is usually temporary. Transplantation is also used for patients with alopecia.
Telogen effluvium. It generally produces on overall thinning of hair and may happen suddenly following an illness, major life stress or other emotional or physical shock to your system, including extreme diets. Hair usually grows back over time.
Traction alopecia. This occurs when hair is abused by tight hair styles (regularly wearing ponytails, cornrows or braids). Over time the pulling can cause scarring on the scalp and damage to the root.
Hair loss may also result from poor nutrition, especially insufficient iron or protein; certain medications and medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy; diseases such as lupus and diabetes; hormonal changes; harsh hair treatments; and scalp infections like ringworm.
What Can I Do?
“The dermatologist sees many patients for hair loss,” says Bruce Bart, MD, a dermatologist at Hennepin County Medical Center. “It is important to determine the cause, for example, heredity, infection, traction or other hair injuries, nutritional, immune-related, etc. For some types of hair loss, treatment of the condition or its underlying cause may be helpful.”
In many cases of temporary hair loss, once the underlying condition is resolved, hair will regrow on its own. In other cases, such as with male- and female-pattern baldness, medicines may help slow or stop hair loss. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter medication that can be rubbed into the scalp several times a day to help grow hair or stop further loss. Your doctor might also prescribe finasteride (Propecia), a pill that may help slow hair loss in men (it is not approved for use in women). Several surgical options may help mask balding if more conservative treatments have failed.
You may also decide that going bald is OK with you. Talk to your doctor about the option that might be best for you.
Healthy Hair Hints: Follow these tips to keep your hair healthy and minimize the appearance of loss.
• Eat a nutritious diet.
• Avoid harsh treatments and tight hairstyles.
• Allow your hair to air-dry when possible.
• Investigate wigs, hairpieces and styling techniques that may help cover up hair loss.