Despite what you may have thought, hair loss is not a condition exclusive to men. Everyone loses hair, men and women alike, on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, the average person loses approximately one hundred strands of hair each day. Don't worry. That's not a big number considering that the human head contains about one hundred thousand hair follicles!
Although some hair loss is normal, there are conditions that do lead to significant hair loss in both men, and occasionally women that can be irreversible without medical treatment. This condition is called alopecia. On average, the human hair follicle and accompanying hair strand remains intact and healthy for approximately four and a half years. It will grow an average of about one half inch per month during that time.
When the individual hair follicle has completed its life cycle and falls out, it is normally replaced with a new and healthy hair follicle. Because of this cyclic process, the natural amount of hair loss is not normally a problem. The problem begins when the old hair follicle falls out and there is no new follicle growing to replace it. This lack of follicle replacement may occur on a limited basis, resulting in thinning hair, or in mass resulting in partial or total hair loss.
The most well known of the hair loss conditions is androgenetic alopeciaor, which more commonly known as male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness is believed to be genetic in origin. Although the symptoms do not usually begin to progress until around thirty years of age, there have been documented cases of symptoms showing up as early as puberty in some boys. In most cases, the loss of hair is complete, or as complete as it is going to be, by the age of sixty. Not all men suffering from male pattern baldness will lose all of their hair. Some will just suffer from thinning of the hair with patches of complete baldness.
While not all men will lose their hair in the same pattern, the hair loss usually occurs first around the temples and forehead hairline. The thinning then proceeds towards the top of the head. The hair will continue to thin at the top of the head and will gradually spread towards the back of the head. As the progression increases, these two areas will become one larger area of complete loss of hair. The end result of this process is the all-too-familiar horseshoe pattern where the remaining hair only covers the sides and back of the head.
Male pattern baldness is believed to be a hereditary condition. It usually affects the male side of the family, and is caused by an increased amount of the androgen hormones. These hormones include testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. When these are over-produced by the body they keep the hair from reproducing and maintaining its thickness. To date there is no known cure for male pattern baldness.
While a cure does not exist, there are medical treatments, but no remedy, available to mask the effects of hair loss. These include prescription drugs that help slow down the process of thinning hair and enhance the reproduction of the new hair follicles, as well as non-prescription cosmetics which temporarily thicken the hair to mask thinning. Hair transplant surgery is an available treatment in which hair follicles from other parts of the body or head are transplanted into the bald areas. This procedure gives results that will look and feel like a regular head of hair, if done properly, and can even get wet in the pool or shower.
Hair loss in females also occurs, although it is not as common as it is in men, nor is the loss of hair usually complete. Since most females have a lower percentage of the male hormones that cause thinning hair, fewer females are likely to suffer from complete loss of hair. Females that have a higher-than-average percentage of male hormones are the ones who are more likely to experience loss or significant thinning of their hair. There are times in a woman's life, such as pregnancy and prolonged periods of stress, when hormones fluctuate and temporary loss or thinning of hair may occur. Females who do suffer from thinning or complete loss of hair will usually do so in a different pattern than typically observed in their male counterpart. A female's hair will usually thin out over the entire scalp area rather than completely fall out in one or more particular areas. Although complete loss of hair in a female is not unheard of, it is just not as common as in men and may be the result of other medical conditions that will need to be addressed by a doctor.
For anyone suffering from thinning hair or complete hair loss, seek advice from your medical provider. Since there are a variety of medical conditions that are not genetic in origin and can lead to thinning and complete loss of the hair, your doctor may be able to offer you a treatment procedure that may either reverse or at least slow down the balding process. If there is no medical cure or treatment available to you, your doctor will offer you the best advice as to your next step, whether it is hair replacement surgery, a wig, or simply learning to accept and live with what cannot be changed.