Hair shedding is a part of your body’s natural cycle. It is completely normal to shed around 50 to 100 hairs per day. But, what if you are losing so much hair that it’s leaving noticeable thin or bald spots? Persistent hair thinning or baldness could mean you have androgenetic alopecia, a genetic form of hair loss. Let explore this type of hair loss commonly diagnosed by dermatologists.
What Is Androgenetic Alopecia?
Alopecia is a broad term that describes many types of hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia is a common form of hereditary hair loss related to genetics and hormones. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 80 million people in the United States are affected by this type of hair loss, 50 million being men and 30 million being women. Although this form of alopecia is common in both males and females, it often presents differently based on a patient’s gender. Male patients show a classic example of a receding hairline near their forehead and at the crown of the head, also known as male-pattern baldness. Androgenetic alopecia in women rarely develops into complete baldness, but may present as progressive thinning over time.
To confirm a diagnosis, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Looking at the skin and hair under the microscope can help define the type of hair loss, especially in the case of androgenetic alopecia.
So, what does “androgenetic” mean? Androgens refer to specific reproductive hormones such as testosterone and testosterone’s successor called dihydrotestosterone (DHT for short). These androgen hormones bind to receptors in the scalp and send signals to the corresponding hair follicles, shortening the hair’s growth phase. This means the hair grows slower and shorter. Similarly, the hairs themselves become smaller or “miniaturized”. Patients with androgenetic alopecia may be predisposed to higher levels of androgens or have a higher sensitivity to these androgens.
While testosterone is predominant in men, females still produce this hormone for biological purposes. Women generally have a lower concentration of this hormone in their body compared to men. However, enough testosterone is present to convert into DHT and trigger the hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia. So, how can a dermatologist help manage this hair loss?
Although androgenetic alopecia is not curable, there are many ways to stop or halt the hair loss associated with this condition before it progresses further. Some treatment options include:
- Minoxidil: Also known as Rogaine, is an FDA-Approved topical medication applied to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
- Spironolactone: A prescription medication that blocks testosterone receptors in the skin to decrease its effects in women with hair loss.
- Finasteride: Sometimes known as Propecia, is a prescription used to treat patients with male and female pattern hair loss or baldness. This medication promotes hair growth by limiting the formation of testosterone to its successor, DHT.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy: Platelets contain growth factors that can convert the hair follicle to the growth phase. Blood is drawn from the arm and placed in a centrifuge which isolates the growth factor-rich platelets. These platelets are then injected back into the scalp to stimulate hair growth. This treatment has been found to slow the progression of androgenetic alopecia and encourage new growth. This is a very safe and preferred treatment by many Pariser Dermatology physicians.
- Revian Red Light Cap: This cap uses wavelengths from LED light to stimulate your cells to naturally release nitric oxide (NO). This production of NO helps increase blood flow and nutrients to your hair follicles, thus promoting hair growth.
“Hair loss can be frustrating and it’s important to remember that treatment can take up to 6 months or more before improvement is seen. Consistent usage of one’s selected treatment is key to seeing improvement in hair density”, says Pariser Dermatology’s Dr. Laine Koch who is familiar with treating hair loss.
Can Vitamins or Supplements Help?
Several vitamins and supplements show promise in promoting hair growth. In fact, your doctor may want to obtain bloodwork to look for any vitamin deficiencies. One of our favorite supplements for hair growth is Untangled by Foundation Skincare. This supplement contains helpful ingredients like Biotin, Marine Collagen, Saw Palmetto as well as Vitamin D and several B Vitamins. You can purchase Untangled at any of our Pariser Dermatology office locations. You also might want to consider Nutrafol, another supplement that targets several root causes of thinning hair. Click here to learn more about Nutrafol.
Androgenetic alopecia is a form of genetic hair loss that affects both men and women. Linked to androgen hormones, the progression of this condition can be slowed or halted with proper treatment. Seeing a dermatologist as soon as hair loss presents itself is crucial. Hair loss can be overwhelming, but rest assured that the physicians and medical practitioners at Pariser Dermatology Specialists are here to help! Call us at 757-622-6315 to schedule an appointment today.