Male Pattern Baldness: Why and How do Some Men Go Bald?

According to HealthXchange, balding is common in men and almost all men will get some form of male pattern hair loss in their lifetime. Also known as androgenetic alopecia, it usually takes 15 to 25 years for men to go completely bald. However, there are some men who lose all their hair in five years or less.

What is male pattern baldness?

One of the first signs of male pattern baldness includes thinning at the sides (temples) and on the top of the head (crown). Over time, a bald patch will develop in the middle of the scalp, while the receding sides and bald patch on the crown gradually spread and join together, leaving a patch of hair at the front. This patch will eventually thin out as well.

At the same time, a rim of hair is often left at the back and sides of the scalp. In some men, this area will get thinner and leave a completely bald scalp over time.

Who gets male pattern baldness?

Although the starting age for hair loss in men varies, almost all men will experience some form of hair loss by their 60th birthday. Studies have shown that approximately three in 10 men aged 30 and above have significant balding, while half of men aged 50 years and above develop this condition.

Causes of male pattern baldness

Hair forms from hair follicles, which are tiny pouches just under the skin surface. A single strand of hair usually grows from each follicle for about three years before shedding to make way for new hair to grow from the follicle. This cycle of hair growth repeats throughout life.

The following changes in the hair growth cycle is thought to cause male pattern baldness:

  • The affected hair follicles on the scalp gradually become smaller
  • As the follicle shrinks, each strand of new hair gets thinner
  • Each new hair has a shorter life span (compared to the normal three years or so) before falling out
  • Over time, all that is left with is a much smaller hair follicle and a thin stump of hair that does not grow out to the skin surface

While genetics play a part in male pattern baldness, male hormones are also involved in causing the changes in hair growth. The cells in the skin of the scalp convert testosterone (the main male hormone), into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone. For reasons not known, the affected hair follicles become more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone, causing hair follicles to shrink and promote the balding process.



How is male pattern baldness treated, and are there any risks? Find out more on the next page.


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