Adrogenetic alopecia is commonly known as “male pattern baldness” or “female pattern hair loss.” This condition is a hormonally responsive hair loss that affects at least 50% of men and women. The tendency for this type of hair loss is inherited, and the best predictor as to the pattern the person may have is to look toward ancestors’ patterns of hair loss. Typically women thin on the top of the scalp without developing overtly bald patches. Men are much more likely to have areas of more complete hair loss. Untreated, this type of hair loss is relentless and somewhat predictable, based on family history, and many adults have significant concerns about the evolution of their appearance with aging. While there is no “cure” for this inherited pattern of hair loss, there are multiple medical therapies that can alter the progression.
Minoxidil, a medication initially created to control blood pressure, is available in a topical form. Continued use of this product for months to years has been shown to provide some regrowth and to slow progression of hair loss in men and women. Particularly in women, there may be an unwanted increase in facial hair as well, therefore, a lower concentration solution (2% versus 5% for men) is available to minimize that effect.
Finasteride is an oral medication that blocks the effects of a potent form of testosterone on the scalp. When taken daily for a year, most men experience either regrowth or cessation of progression of the hair loss with minimal other effects. Since this medication affects the action of one form of testosterone in the body, and can lead to serious birth defects in a developing fetus, use in women is less common.
Finally, hair transplantation, which surgically moves single follicles from the back of the scalp to the top and front, in the area of hair thinning, is a option chosen by many patients.