If you suffer from male pattern baldness, you may be looking for things to blame. While people often place blame on testosterone or your mother’s side of the family, when it comes down to it, your hair loss problems can be summed in three little letters: DHT.
DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a sex hormone, or androgen. It comes from testosterone and is produced in the hair follicles, prostate and adrenal glands. An enzyme, Type II 5-alpha-reductace, found in those aforementioned parts of the body, helps convert testosterone to DHT. In the hair follicles, the enzyme can be found in the oil glands.
While DHT is a male hormone, both men and women have it. In men and women, it’s connected to male or female pattern baldness. It also plays a role in the development of prostate problems in men.
People tend to think of testosterone as the hormone that is responsible for the characteristics that make men “male.” It’s actually DHT that plays a big part in the development of male characteristics in puberty. DHT plays a part in the growth of facial hair, muscle growth and the deepening of the male voice.
DHT and Hair Loss
While DHT is a must in a person’s early years, it starts to cause problems later in life. It not only plays a part in male pattern baldness. It also leads to the enlargement of the prostate as men get older.
In the case of hair loss, certain hair follicles are more sensitive to the impact of DHT than others. The hormone doesn’t cause the hair to fall out. Instead, it causes sensitive hair follicles to miniaturize, or shrink.
More specifically, DHT interferes with the function of the dermal papilla, found at the base of every hair follicle. The papilla connects to the blood vessels in the scalp, which provide it with food and nutrients, so that the follicle can thrive and the hair can grow.
But, DHT keeps the papilla from properly absorbing those nutrients or from connecting with the blood vessels. As a result, the hair follicle is more likely to spend more time in a resting phase than in a growing phase. The combination of miniaturized hair follicle and slower growth leads to hair loss. The hair itself becomes thinner and thinner, until it eventually stops growing.
Male pattern baldness is the leading cause of hair loss among men. DHT is thought to play a part in a great majority — almost 95 percent — of male pattern baldness cases.
A few factors can help a doctor figure out if DHT is playing a part in your hair loss. One is to review your family history. If a number of people in your family, such as your dad or grandfathers, had hair loss, odds are it’s due to your genes and DHT. Your surgeon will also look closely at the follicles on your head to see if they have miniaturized and the extent of the miniaturization. You don’t need a blood test or hair biopsy to determine if DHT is playing a part in your hair loss or not.
There are generally two ways to effectively treat male pattern baldness caused by DHT. A medication, finasteride, reduces the amount of 5-alpha-reductase produced by the body, and the amount of DHT. The medicine is taken in pill form once a day.
It does have a number of drawbacks, though, including long lasting side effects. One side effect that may persist is the loss of libido in men. For some people, that’s enough to make the medicine not worth it.
Hair restoration surgery is another treatment option for hair loss caused by DHT. The surgery involves transplanting hair follicles that aren’t sensitive to DHT to the top of the head, to replace the follicles that have miniaturized. A hair transplant provides permanent results, although it takes many months for the results to appear.
If you have a history of baldness in your family and are beginning to show signs of hair loss, you don’t have to worry about losing all of your hair. In the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Kyle Choe is a hair restoration specialist. He can diagnose the cause of your hair loss and let you know if a surgical hair transplant is the right option for you. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe by calling (757) 389-5850 today.