“Why me?” can be a question that men may ask themselves when they first notice that they have male pattern hair loss--a condition that affects 2 out of 3 men.
Despite the fact that male pattern baldness is very common, many men who are faced with hair loss feel embarrassment and have low self-esteem. According to Phillip Ginsberg, DO, JD, an osteopathic physician who practices in Philadelphia, Pa., when a male is experiencing hair loss it is important to know what is causing the hair loss and become educated about the available treatment options.
Debunking the Myths
“First of all, I think that it is vital to break through the myths about male pattern hair loss,” says Dr. Ginsberg. Common myths associated with hair loss in men are that baldness is inherited from the mother’s side of the family; and wearing a hat or using a blow-dryer can cause hair loss.
“There are no facts to support any of these myths,” states Dr. Ginsberg. “Male pattern hair loss is caused when the hair follicle gradually becomes smaller, which results in shorter and finer hair and eventually no hair.”
While genetics does play a role in male pattern hair loss, Dr. Ginsberg notes that the gene can come from either parent, not just the mother. In addition, males who experience hair loss usually have a high presence of endocrine hormones.
Symptoms of male pattern baldness may begin appearing in men as young as 20 years old and can consist of thinning hair; a receding hairline, usually from the front toward the back over time; loss of hair around the crown of the head; or progression of hair loss in a typical “M”-shaped pattern.
“Unfortunately, there is no cure for male pattern hair loss,” says Dr. Ginsberg. “But, there are treatments available that may help to slow down the process or even make new hair grow.”
According to Dr. Ginsberg, two of the most popular treatments are the prescription drugs, minoxidil and finasteride. Minoxidil is usually used on the scalp and has been known to help hair grow in approximately 20-25% of the population. The majority of users experience slowed hair loss. Loss of hair will resume with the discontinuation of minoxidil.
The other common medication used to treat male pattern baldness is finasteride, which is the only oral medication approved by the FDA to help treat male pattern baldness. Finasteride inhibits the production of the hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness. Approximately 50% of men who take finasteride have increased their hair growth in one year.
“Minoxidil and finasteride are two of the most common forms of treatment for male pattern baldness, however, they are not the only options available,” states Dr. Ginsberg. “Hair transplants, which consist of removing tiny plugs of hair from areas where the hair is continuing to grow and placing them in the areas that are balding, are also a popular form of treatment.”
While male pattern hair loss might be unwanted, Dr. Ginsberg says men experiencing this condition should not be embarrassed to talk to their physician about any health-related concerns that they might have.
“It is especially important to discuss this issue with your doctor if hair loss occurs in a pattern other than that of typical male pattern baldness or is accompanied by itching, skin irritation and other symptoms,” says Dr. Ginsberg.