Is your hair gradually falling out all over your head? You can stop looking for answers – you have androgenetic alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia, which is irreversible (without micrograft treatment) is the scientific name given to the most common form of baldness in the world. It affects both men and women, but men are particularly prone to it. Nearly 70% of men are affected by this type of baldness, 50% of which are over 50 years old, and 90% of baldness cases are androgenic alopecia.
Why is it called “androgenetic” alopecia?
The term “androgenetic” is used because of the cause of this condition, the androgens, that is the male hormones (testosterone), and genetics, which refers to our individual and family “genetic heritage”.
Men and women alike naturally produce androgens from puberty. The androgens produced in the hair follicle accelerate the life of the hair and make it fall out quicker, until the hair is no longer able to grow back. The gonads (testicles and ovaries, 40%) and the suprarenal glands (60%) produce androgens.
This is indeed a case of genetics at work because someone can be genetically hypersensitive to this overproduction of androgen hormones, and they are guaranteed to experience baldness. Above all, people can be genetically predisposed to developing baldness: this type of baldness is hereditary in most cases.
As a result, the anagen phase of the hair’s life cycle becomes shorter and the hair grows gradually thinner, and shorter, until it becomes less and less visible fuzz because the hair bulb has shrunk.
Unlike other forms of alopecia, which can be aggressive and often temporary, androgenetic alopecia is irreversible and gradually – not suddenly – appears. It also always appears in the frontal and parietal (temples) areas and on top of the head (in fact, the hair follicle is most sensitive to androgens in these areas), while certain types of alopecia occur with uneven hair loss in patches, on any part of the head.
Hair loss has never been observed in the occipital and lateral areas, that is above the ears and on the neck.
How does it affect women and children?
Around 15% of non-menopausal women have more or less severe androgenetic alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia does affect women, but it should be noted that there are far fewer cases in women, simply because women produce 20 times less androgen hormones than men. Alopecia in women is also spread all over the scalp and is less severe.
When it comes to young children, there is no need to panic, as androgens are only produced during puberty, which is why alopecia does not occur in prepubescent children.
It should be stressed that androgenetic alopecia is not a disease: the hormone levels are normal. It is a genetic predisposition specifically affecting some hair follicles that causes the baldness.
Although it is now possible to delay the onset of androgenetic alopecia, medicine has not yet identified the specific gene responsible. It is worth noting that the gene can skip a few generations. There are some medical treatments that can delay baldness but cannot prevent it – the micrograft technique is therefore the best solution available today.