Male baldness

Male baldness

Male baldness

Everybody sheds scalp hair every day. Most people lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, which is considered normal hair loss. This is replaced with new hair through the cycle of natural hair growth. However, a consistent loss of 150 hairs a day is considered significant hair loss.

If you start to notice more hair than usual on your pillow, in your hairbrush or in your shower drain, you may be experiencing hair loss.

Causes of hair loss

Hair loss and going bald is something many men have to adjust to as they get older. If you are a man between the ages of about 20 to 45 and you start to lose significant scalp hair, the chances are 95 per cent that you are experiencing male pattern baldness.

Male pattern baldness

Male-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss in men. Men who have this type of hair loss usually have inherited the trait. When you start losing hair at an early age, you tend to develop more extensive baldness. In male pattern baldness, hair loss typically results in a receding hair line and baldness on the top of the head.

Men are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness. Testosterone, a hormone that is present in high levels in males after puberty, is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by an ensyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT has an adverse effect on the hair follicles. Acting on a hormone receptor of the hair follicle, it slows down hair production and produces weak and shorter hair; sometimes it stops hair growth from the follicle completely. This process gradually depletes your stock of hair and causes baldness.

Hair loss due to illness or disease

There are a number of diseases and conditions that can cause hair loss. By treating the illness, hair loss can be reversed. Illnesses and conditions that can cause male hair loss include the following:

  • High temperature associated with infections or flu
  • Thyroid and pituitary problems
  • Some medical treatments such as  radiotherapy and chemotherapy; side-effects of medications such as interferon and steroids
  • Stress
  • Psychological problems such as trichotillomania where some people pull out their hair
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals such as thallium acetate
  • Fungal infections of the scalp
  • Ringworm
  • Burns
  • A condition called alpaca areata universalis, where the whole body is affected, or totalis where the whole of the scalp becomes bald.

Is there any treatment for hair loss?

Treatments are available, depending on your type of hair loss. If a medicine is causing your hair loss, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine. Recognising and treating an infection may help stop hair loss, or correcting a hormone imbalance may prevent further hair loss.  

Medicines may also help slow or prevent the development of male pattern baldness. One medicine, minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), is available without a prescription and can be used by both men and women. Another medicine, finasteride, is available with a prescription. It comes in pills and is only for men. It may take up to six months before you can tell if one of these medicines is working.

If adequate treatment is not available for your type of hair loss, you may consider trying different hairstyles or wigs, hairpieces, hair weaves or artificial hair replacement.