FOR WOMEN

INTRODUCTION

Mistakenly thought to be a strictly male disease, women actually make up forty percent of hair loss sufferers. Hair loss in women can be absolutely devastating for the sufferer’s self image and emotional well being. Unfortunately, society has forced women to suffer in silence. It is considered far more acceptable for men to go through the same hair loss process. Even more unfortunately, the medical community also treats the issue of women’s hair loss as if it were nonexistent. Since hair loss doesn’t appear to be life threatening, most physicians pay little attention to women’s complaints about hair loss and essentially tell their patients that „it’s no big deal”, and that „you’ll just have to live with it”. Of course what these physicians don’t seem to realize is that the psychological damage caused by hair loss and feeling unattractive can be just as devastating as any serious disease, and in fact, can take an emotional toll that directly affects physical health.

TYPES of WOMEN HAIR LOSS

Hair loss can be temporary or long lasting. Temporary hair loss can be easy to fix when its cause is identified and dealt with or difficult when it is not immediately clear what the cause is. Hair loss that could have been merely temporary may become long lasting as a result of an incorrect diagnosis. The potential for such misdiagnoses is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of hair loss for women. The information in this section will help you identify the cause of your hair loss. Alopecia is the medical term for excessive or abnormal hair loss. There are different kinds of alopecia. What all hair loss have in common, whether it’s in women or men, that it is always a symptom of something else that’s gone wrong in your body. Your hair will remain on your head where it belongs if hormone imbalance, disease, or some other condition is not occurring. That condition may be as simple as having a gene that makes you susceptible to male or female pattern baldness or one of the forms of alopecia areata, or it may be as complex as a whole host of diseases. Fortunately, hair shedding may also be a symptom of a short-term event such as stress, pregnancy, and the taking of certain medications. In these situations, hair will grow back when the event has passed. Substances (including hormones), medications, and diseases can cause a change in the hair growth and shedding phases and in their durations. When this happens, synchronous growth and shedding occur. Once the cause is dealt with, hairs go back to their normal pattern of growth and shedding, and your hair loss problem stops.

FEMALE PATTERN BALDNESS

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative of the male hormone testosterone, is the enemy of hair follicles on your head. Simply put, under certain conditions DHT wants those follicles dead. This simple action is at the root of many kinds of hair loss, so we’ll address it first. Androgenetic alopecia, commonly called male or female pattern baldness, was only partially understood until the last few decades. For many years, scientists thought that androgenetic alopecia was caused by the predominance of the male sex hormone, testosterone, which women also have in trace amounts under normal conditions. While testosterone is at the core of the balding process, DHT is thought to be the main culprit. Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, which is held in a hair follicle’s oil glands. Scientists now believe that it’s not the amount of circulating testosterone that’s the problem but the level of DHT binding to receptors in scalp follicles. DHT shrinks hair follicles, making it impossible for healthy hair to survive.

The hormonal process of testosterone converting to DHT, which then harms hair follicles, happens in both men and women. Under normal conditions, women have a minute fraction of the level of testosterone that men have, but even a lower level can cause DHT- triggered hair loss in women. And certainly when those levels rise, DHT is even more of a problem. Those levels can rise and still be within what doctors consider “normal” on a blood test, even though they are high enough to cause a problem. The levels may not rise at all and still be a problem if you have the kind of body chemistry that is overly sensitive to even its regular levels of chemicals, including hormones. Since hormones operate in the healthiest manner when they are in a delicate balance, the androgens, as male hormones are called, do not need to be raised to trigger a problem. Their counterpart female hormones, when lowered, give an edge to these androgens, such as DHT. Such an imbalance can also cause problems, including hair loss. Hormones are cyclical. Testosterone levels in some men drop by 10 percent each decade after thirty. Women’s hormone levels decline as menopause approaches and drop sharply during menopause and beyond. The cyclic nature of both our hair and hormones is one reason hair loss can increase in the short term even when you are experiencing a long-term slowdown of hair loss (and a long-term increase in hair growth) while on a treatment that controls hair loss. The majority of women with androgenic alopecia have diffuse thinning on all areas of the scalp. Men on the other hand, rarely have diffuse thinning but instead have more distinct patterns of hair loss. Some women may have a combination of two pattern types. Androgenic alopecia in women is due to the action of androgens, male hormones that are typically present in only small amounts. Hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors tied to the actions of hormones, including, ovarian cysts, the taking of high androgen index birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. Just like in men the hormone DHT appears to be at least partially to blame for the miniaturization of hair follicles in women suffering with female pattern baldness. Heredity plays a major factor in the disease.

Ludwig Classification of Female Pattern Baldness

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