Men and Women Are Different and Their Hair Loss Too
Hereditary baldness, often considered as a mere cosmetic problem, is a regular medical condition and it is very difficult to treat successfully. It affects about one third of the adult men, and although it may not look so, about one quarter of grown-up women also experience hair thinning, known as female pattern baldness. Male pattern hair loss is characteristic for its horseshoe balding pattern, affecting mainly the frontal and the top scalp area. In women hereditary baldness happens to be less noticeable, which is due to its diffuse balding pattern spread more or less evenly around their entire scalp and, therefore, it may seem hard to believe at the first thought that such a high percentage of women face irreversible hair loss. But only those affected can tell and they know far too well how damaging it is to their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Since the chance discovery of the leading cause of hereditary baldness in men and women being dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and its adverse effects on susceptible hair follicles we know a bit more about how to deal with this medical condition. We now know that DHT causes miniaturization of hair follicles which produce thinner, shorter and weaker hairs until they eventually stop growing any hair at all. Propecia (its active ingredient is called finasteride) emerged as the first treatment for hereditary hair loss and it got approved by the US FDA in 1997 for treating male pattern baldness. Since then it has become the most prescribed and also the most effective treatment for male patients suffering from pattern baldness. The main weakness of Propecia is that it needs to be taken for as long as the patient wishes to keep and regrow their hair. When the treatment is abandoned the balding process resumes and all previous benefits are gradually lost.
It needs to be mentioned that common health insurance plans do not cover the purchasing cost of any medicine, treatment or therapy for baldness and since any hair loss treatment needs to be taken daily for the rest of the patient’s life, it can be quite expensive in the long term. In addition, patients who have undergone hair transplantation have to use finasteride post-surgery for their lifetime in order to prevent additional loss of hair, which would require further hair transplant sessions and thus asking for additional costs.
When treating male pattern hair loss the basic approach is to reduce the androgen activity of the DHT while promoting new hair growth by applying some hair growth stimulant. Propecia belongs to the first category. It contains the sole active substance called finasteride which is able to reduce the amount of DHT available in our body by up to 90%. This way there is much less DHT which would be available to attack susceptible hair follicles. Resulting benefit is slowing down or even halting of the balding process. If Propecia is employed in the early stages of the balding process it is proven to help regrow a large portion of the hair that has been lost in the past two years and it is specifically effective in regenerating hair in the anterior area of the scalp. Unfortunately, this anti-androgen is not as efficient in the frontal scalp area. The best hair regrowth results can be achieved by combining Propecia pill and topical Rogaine. Rogaine (topical minoxidil) is a hair growth stimulant that will ensure improved growth of the formerly miniaturized hair. Rogaine is applied to the scalp twice daily for as long as you wish to treat your hair loss condition.
Women must not use Propecia (finasteride) at all as it can be harmful to the male fetus in their bodies should they be pregnant. Thus, women should stay away from this medication (although some recent studies suggest that Propecia could be used efficiently to regrow hair also in post-menopausal women) and better use another suitable anti-androgen treatments instead, such as spironolactone also known as Aldactone. However, spironolactone and its potential benefits are still a subject of numerous hair loss studies and due to possible side-effects on female bodies it may not be available to every female patient. Like finasteride used to combat male pattern baldness, this medication also requires a prescription from the doctor. It can be concluded that female hair loss is yet more difficult to treat than baldness in men as women cannot use Propecia and they are not very good candidates for hair surgery either which has to do with their diffuse balding and resulting inability to identify healthy hair follicles that would remain to be resistant to DHT attacks after transplantation.