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Hair Loss

 

Hair loss may occur in men from the head (‘Male pattern baldness’) or from the body generally (see below).

Progressive baldness is largely genetically determined, and a proportion of men simply do not suffer from this problem, or experience only limited thinning of hair with age. For the rest however, hair may start to thin out and eventually to disappear from the temples and the crown of the head at any time. For a few men this process starts as early as the later teenage years, but for most it becomes noticeable in their late 20s and early 30s. It is seemingly inexorable - a little thinning of the hair may be noticeable at first, but with increasing years more and more of the scalp tends to become visible.

Progressive hair loss is of little biological significance, but it can and does result in great emotional distress associated with a lack of self-confidence and sometimes depression.

Causes of hair loss

The loss of hair in men is most commonly due to an excess of a chemical called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which causes the hair follicles to make thinner and thinner hair until they eventually cease production completely.

Hair loss may also result from illness, and other less common causes of hair loss may include:

  • iron-deficiency anaemia
  • under active thyroid (loss of body hair and/or outer part of eyebrows)
  • fungal scalp infection
  • some prescribed medicines
  • stress

In most of these conditions, hair loss is s symptom, and is likely yo go into reverse when the primary cause is cleared up.

What can be done?

The first thing to do is to ensure that the hair loss is normal male balding, rather than an illness such as those listed above. If hair loss is patchy, or is accompanied by any other symptom (such as tiredness) then a visit to your doctor may be appropriate. If it is simply a slow, progressive condition primarily affecting the temple and crown areas (at least initially), and especially if such hair loss runs in your family, then it is fairly safe to assume that this is simply normal male hair loss.

A huge number of treatments have been tried to slow down and even reverse the process of male pattern hair loss. Some are successful, others aren't, but many men find their hair loss slows down or stops for no apparent reason at a certain age anyway.

This is not an area where conventional medical science has too many answers. Wigs and hair transplants (normally available only privately) are, obviously, the most direct form of treatment. Different hairstyles can also create the appearance of a fuller head of hair.

Scalp treatments

Minoxidil is a lotion available from the pharmacist that you rub on to the scalp. It slows down the process of hair loss and can cause some new hair growth. Once started, you have to keep on using it or it will stop being effective.

Finasteride (Propecia) is the latest drug treatment. It comes in tablet form and works by slowing down hair loss. It has also reported to stimulate new hair growth. In the UK it's only available on private prescription from your GP.

Creatine and adenosine, both naturally-occurring in the human body, and a compound called 4,6-dimethoxyindole-2-carboxylic acid, are currently being investigated by various commercial concerns for their effects on stimulating hair growth. Adenosine, an amino acid, is already being used as a component of at least one proprietary mixture.

Herbal preparations that contain zinc, magnesium, iron, vitamin E and other substances in various combinations can help, but none are a a ‘cure’. The following are some of the more common herbal ingredients:

Ginkgo biloba - this popular herb is thought to improve blood circulation to the brain and skin. The belief is that this bloodflow-enhancing effect may extend to the scalp, allowing more nutrients to the hair follicle thus promoting hair regrowth. There is no direct evidence for its efficacy.

Green tea (Camellia sinesis) - it is thought that catechins found in green tea may inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase that converts testosterone into DHT, and so may be helpful in preventing and treating male pattern type baldness. Dosage is several cups of green tea each day or the equivalent in capsules of extract.

He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum) - also known as Fo-Ti, this Chinese herb has traditionally been used to reduce hair loss. It is found in many commercial preparations, or in tea and capsule form.

Pygeum (Pygeum africanum) - derived from the bark of an evergreen, it works in a similar way to green tea. It is widely used to treat prostate problems and male pattern baldness. Users should take 60-500mg per day in pill or capsule form.

Saw palmetto (Seranoa repens) - this is the current treatment of choice for many men due to its ability to protect the prostate, slow hair loss and encourage hair regrowth. It forms the main element of many commercially prepared hair loss treatments but can easily be obtained in its pure form. The recommended dose is a 160mg capsule twice each day, but make sure the ingredients are made from the berry extract not the dried berries themselves.

Stinging nettle (Urtica diocia) - like green tea, nettle tea has the ability to block the conversion of testosterone into DHT. It can be taken in pill or capsule form with an optimum dose of 50-100mg per day. It is particularly effective when combined with pygeum and saw palmetto.
 

Hair Loss (body and/or pubic hair)

Significant loss of hair from the body, typically starting with leg hair, followed by pubic and armpit hair (but usually NOT head hair) is often a symptom of hormonal imbalance. This may result from the ‘male menopause’ of middle age or late middle age, or from some other hormonal problem. The latter may in extreme cases be induced by a ‘fat free’ diet, but is more likely to be a symptom of some other problem.

The most common cause of such hair loss is probably low testosterone levels, typically experienced by many men in late middle age. If possible, a blood test should be sought to confirm this possibility. Otherwise, hypthyroidism (low thyroid hormone production, or an imbalance in thyroid hormones) could be a possibility. A consistently low body temperature (below 37C) is indicative of this condition. Again, formal blood testing should be arranged before embarking on herbal or other regimes to try to correct the problem.

 

 

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