Male Pattern Baldness: Causes & Symptoms

by Ishani Bose last updated -

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Male pattern baldness is a condition that commonly occurs in adult men. Though its initial signs are first seen in men in their twenties, and in some cases during their teenage years, it is a condition that worsens with age. Genetics usually plays a huge role in this condition. Men who have family members with male pattern baldness are at a high risk to develop this condition.

What is Male Pattern Baldness?

Commonly known as male-pattern hair loss and androgenetic alopecia, male pattern baldness is defined as hair loss that tends to be restricted to the front and crown areas of the head, particularly in the case of men. While this condition is mainly associated with men, nearly 25% of women also experience their own version of the disorder. However, in females, baldness is far less common than thinning of the hair due to heightened hair loss.

Causes of Male Pattern Baldness

The cause of male pattern baldness has been debated for generations, but it is currently believed to be a combination of various factors, including hormonal balance in the body, genetics, health status, age and lifestyle habits. Some of these contributing factors may have stronger effects than others, but it can be difficult to identify the specific cause in a given individual. Female pattern hair loss remains even more inexplicable to researchers and experts.

Age

The growth and retention of hair are inherently linked to various hormones in the body, primarily dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As we age, the balance of our hormones shifts, including a marked drop in testosterone and a high level of free androgens, including DHT. Certain enzyme levels, such as 5-alpha-reductase, are also skewed high in men with male pattern baldness. Essentially, this means that your risk of male pattern baldness increases with age.

Chronic Diseases

If you suffer from metabolic syndrome or any other condition that may affect your hormone levels or metabolic speed, you are more likely to develop male pattern baldness in the future. Diabetes and poor cholesterol balance are also closely linked with your risk of premature androgenic alopecia, so working on your overall health can help prevent this condition.

Hormonal Imbalance

As mentioned earlier, hair loss is deeply tied to hormonal levels at the site of the hair follicles. Dihydrotestosterone interacts with insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which regulates the activity of hair follicles on the scalp. These hormones don’t always function the same way; for example, the same hormones that may inhibit the growth of hair on the scalp could also stimulate the growth of facial hair. Working with a specialist to balance your hormones is key if you think this is the root of your male pattern baldness.

Lifestyle

Although research is limited on this, excessive brushing and the use of strong chemicals or scrubs can also increase your risk of androgenic alopecia. Similarly, things like smoking and drug/alcohol abuse can also decrease overall nutrient levels and boost your likelihood of developing male pattern baldness.

According to research conducted, androgenetic alopecia seems to have no effect on the overall lifestyle patterns. However, the research showed that the psychological health of a person helps in coping with the condition. It showed that younger patients were showcasing better functioning, self-assurance and reduced/controlled stigmatized feelings.

Symptoms of Male Pattern Baldness

Symptoms of male pattern baldness include :

  • Gradual or rapid hair loss in scalp and forehead areas
  • Typical M shape in the crown or temple areas of the head
  • The “final” stage of male pattern baldness is when only a horseshoe or “U” shape of the hair remains

Is it Hereditary?

A lot of research has been done on male pattern baldness, and it has been found that there is a gene variation segment that is linked to androgenic alopecia found on the X chromosome. Since this chromosome is passed down from your mother, there is a hereditary connection to your mother’s side when it comes to your increasingly bare head. The main culprit is the androgen receptor gene, a variation in which will significantly increase your risk of premature hair loss.

However, this isn’t a simple explanation, as there is other evidence that shows multiple genes having an impact on your hair. Some of these genes may also be passed down from the father’s side. With all of that being said, there are other non-genetic factors that can lead to male pattern baldness, so if your maternal grandfather still has his hair intact, it isn’t a guarantee that you will enjoy the same fate.

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About the Author

An alumnus of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Ishani is a journalist-turned-content writer, with an avid interest in politics, history, fashion, food, health, arts, and culture. She is a food fanatic, who loves to try out interesting and healthy recipes in her free time. When she isn’t writing or cooking, you’ll find her Instagramming (more often than she’d like), wasting time on an assortment of things such as shopping, netflixing, and chasing her up-to-no-good pet cat throughout the house.

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