Usually we think of baldness as a problem that is specific only to men, but women are also unfortunate to experience this as well. According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), the number of female hair transplant patients has increased by 24% worldwide since 2004.
Society view women to have a full head of hair which make it harder for them to deal with hair thinning or balding, since hair largely defines physical beauty. Thinning hair is considered to be normal in older females, but for those who are younger and losing clumps of hair leaving sparse spaces on their head can feel a blow to their confidence and self-esteem.
In reality women do develop some degree of balding and it can start at any time after puberty. But you don’t notice this right away because usually this becomes apparent around menopause as the degree of hair loss increases.
But the situation is much worse in female pattern hair baldness or androgenetic alopecia.This is the most common type of hair loss in women with the incidence increasing during and after menopause based on US statistics.
The risk for female pattern hair loss increases with age, but it is higher in women who have a history of the condition on either side of the family.
Androgenetic alopecia, as the name implies, involves the actions of the hormone called androgens. Now, you might think that this is only found in men, but this is also present in women. And the overproduction of this hormone is believed to be the cause of female pattern baldness, just as it would with male pattern baldness.
But unlike the effects that androgens have on men, the role of this particular hormone in women may be harder to determine. In rare cases where an androgen-secreting tumor is present, then it is important that androgen levels be measured especially among women who are clearly experiencing female pattern hair loss.
For both men and women, androgenetic alopecia occur because the anagen phase or the growing phase of hair is cut short while the time between the shedding and the growth of new hair is lengthened. But aside from that the hair follicles are also shrinking into shorter and thinner hair shafts. So instead of having thick longer hairs the scalp now grows thinner, shorter and non-pigmented hairs.
But there are certain features that separate male pattern hair baldness from female pattern baldness and this is in the characteristic of hair distribution. There are three ways to differentiate hair thinning in females and they are grouped as follows:
Grade I : This is when hair thinning is focused on the center or top of the head.
Grade II : This displays greater hair loss on the scalp characterized by thinning hair and patches.
Grade III: This takes on male pattern baldness with hair loss affecting the front of the scalp up to the middle portion. But this rarely affects women and is usually more common in men.
Hair loss in female pattern baldness would usually run from mild to moderate, but the effects will be permanent especially if left untreated. But if you think you are okay with how you look, then you can always forgo treatment. There is no health issue involved.
Minoxidil is the medication heralded to be effective in female pattern baldness. A 2% concentration is advised for women to aid in hair regrowth, slow or stop hair loss. To maintain its effects, you have to continue applying this medication to the affected areas for a long time because hair loss will reoccur if you stop using it.
Spironolactone is also another option if Minoxidil is not effective. This medication is to be taken by mouth and it is effective for hair loss that is caused by overproduction of androgens. This action in hair loss is actually an off label use, and this drug is not advised for women who are pregnant and experiencing kidney failure.
For severe types of hair loss where clear cut areas of baldness are present and permanent, then hair transplant can be a very good option. It is the surgical removal of hair donors, usually taken at the back of the head, and then transplanted over to the affected areas.
It is important that you get yourself thoroughly checked by your primary care physician so that other possible causes for female hair loss are ruled out and the root cause can be appropriately managed. It is unfortunate that there is no preventive measure against female pattern baldness, but there is a cure for the condition and a way to correct its damage to the scalp.