Going bald is a fact of life for millions of men. Hair normally lives for around five years. With male pattern baldness these hairs do not always get replaced and gradually bald areas appear. This process can however take a long time and the age at which you start to lose hair does not necessarily provide any clues as to how long it will be until you define yourself as bald.
Normal Hair Loss
There are a number of reasons why men start to go bald, but if you are a man between the ages of about 20 to 45 and you start to lose scalp hair, then the chances are 95 per cent certain that you are experiencing male pattern baldness. As the term suggests, male pattern baldness follows a typical sequence or pattern. Hair loss can start in different areas but is usually at the temples and/or on the crown of the head. Initial thinning of hair progresses over a number of years and may lead to total baldness but more typically loss of hair over the top surface of the head.
Question: What is Normal Hair Loss?
Answer: It is normal to lose up to about 100 hairs a day although too much brushing, hair rubbing or excessive washing can add to this. Hair loss may increase with age but male-pattern baldness is not abnormal, or a sign of abnormality, it simply suggests that your pattern of hair loss is, like 95% of hair loss, genetically pre-determined.
Normal Hair Loss: We all lose about 100 hairs per day, out of the 100,000 contained by the average scalp. This is due to a few factors:
- Lifespan: The average lifespan of a single hair is 4.5 years; the hair then falls out and is replaced within 6 months by a new hair.
- Styling: Shampooing, blow drying, and brushing hair can all cause a few hairs to fall out; most of us do this regularly.
- Aging: After the age of 30 (and often before), men and women both start losing hair, though men tend to do so at a faster rate.
The Cause of Male Pattern Baldness
Most men are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness. It is the effect of hormones on the hair follicle that produces male pattern baldness. Testosterone, a hormone that is present in high levels in males after puberty, is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT has an adverse affect on the hair follicles. Acting on a hormone receptor on the hair follicle it slows down hair production and produces weak, shorter hair, sometimes it stops hair growth from the follicle completely. This process gradually depletes your stock of hair and is normal hair loss.
Hair loss from illness or disease
If you loose your hair suddenly and if your hair loss is in clumps or significant enough that you notice large amounts on your pillow, covering the back of your clothes or when you wash your hair. This type of hair loss does not represent typical male baldness, but it does require a diagnosis. Don’t worry. Hair loss can occur for a number of reasons and can often be treated successfully.
Hair loss and going bald is something many men have to adjust to as they get older. There are, however, 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:
- High temperature associated with infections or flu.
- Thyroid and pituitary problems
- Some medical treatments; radiotherapy, side effects of medications such as interferon, chemotherapy and steroids can all cause hair loss.
- 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
- Alpaca Areata Universalis, where the whole body is affected, or totalis where the whole of the scalp becomes bald.
If hair loss is caused by disease there are usually other symptoms that accompany hair loss. If you believe your hair loss may be caused by disease go check it out with your doctor.
Hereditary Hair Loss
Genetic hair loss isn’t due to excessive amounts of hair falling out, as many believe, but to an insufficient amount of hairs growing back to replace the hairs that have been shed. Hereditary baldness is associated with a few factors:
- Gender: Hereditary, or “pattern” baldness, is much more common in men than in women.
- Age: By age 30, 1 in 4 men is balding; by age 60, 2 in 3 men are balding or bald.
- Hormones: Pattern baldness is associated with testosterone; women who have more of it in their system as they age tend to lose (or, technically, fail to re-grow) more hair. This is also why more men experience pattern baldness.
Stress and Hair Loss
You may have heard that stress can cause hair loss, and it’s true. Excessive physical or emotional stress, like that associated with injury, illness or surgery, can cause one of two types of hair loss:
- The more common type is called telogen effluvium. With this less severe type of hair loss, the hair stops growing and lies dormant, only to fall out 2 or 3 months later. Then it grows back within 6 to 9 months.
- The other type of stress-induced hair loss is known as alopecia areata, and involves a white blood cell attack on the hair follicles. With this type of hair loss, the hair also falls out within weeks (usually in patches), but can involve the entire scalp and even body hair. Hair may grow back on its own, but treatment may also be required.
Other Hair Loss Factors
There are other factors that can also cause hair loss, including but not limited to:
- Hormonal changes
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and birth control pill usage
- Nervous habits
If your hair is thinning, or you’re experiencing baldness and it seems abnormal (i.e. if you’re in your teens or 20s, if it’s an odd pattern, etc.) it’s a good idea to see your doctor to determine the cause.