The effects of male-pattern baldness
It’s normal for us to lose between 50 to 60 hairs a day, but occasionally hair loss can be due to a temporary or permanent medical condition.
Male pattern baldness is very common and can affect at least 50% of men at some point in their lives and most accept the condition without considering any treatment.
Thinning hair can be a problem for both men and women as they get older and temporary hair loss can be the result of stress, weight loss, an illness, iron deficiency or cancer treatment.
You should visit your GP if your hair loss is sudden, you are losing hair in clumps, you are developing bald patches or your head itches or burns.
Male pattern baldness
Male pattern-baldness, sometimes called androgenetic alopecia, is permanent, usually hereditary and is thought to be caused by oversensitive hair follicles. The process commonly starts with a receding hairline and can take less than 5 years or 15 to 25 years for a person to go bald.
Often, the hair starts to recede at the temples, while thinning on the top of the head, leading to a bald patch in the centre of the scalp. Over time, the sides and bald patch can enlarge to the point where they join up.
Male hormones contribute to these changes, with scalp cells converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which causes the hair follicles to shrink.
In some cases, male pattern baldness can be linked to metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
Gradually going bald is part of the ageing process and no treatment is required but the effects of going bald are often more than just physical. Losing your hair can have significant psychological affects including depression, low self-esteem and a feeling that you are getting old (sometimes before your time).
There are a number of ways to deal with hair loss that can help restore self-esteem:
Wigs or a hair piece may be an option for some.
There are two types of medication available (neither currently available under the NHS):
- A prescription only medication that is used to block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Results can be seen after around four months, with full hair growth taking one to two years. However, balding will return if the treatment is stopped. If this type of treatment is of interest, you are advised to speak with your GP.
- Over the counter lotions that are rubbed into the scalp and available in different strengths. If this type of treatment is of interest, speak with your pharmacist who should be able to help you. It can take four months to notice any change and hair loss will restart if the treatment is stopped.
For more information on male pattern-baldness and any distress it may be causing, talk to your GP. You may also like to read the following:
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 2 May 2018
Next review: 2 May 2021