Of all the things that can break your heart, hair loss can be the most tragic. It is painful to see your hair on the pillow, in the bathtub, and in the comb. Hair may start to fall out due to many reasons, including medications, hormones, medical conditions, stress, and genetics.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) or pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss that affects both men and women. More than 21 million women and 35 million men in the US experience pattern baldness. According to the American Hair Loss Association, adults will notice hair loss as they age. Two-thirds of men tend to lose their hair by the age of 35.
As soon as men hit the 50 mark, the number escalates to a whopping 85%. Hereditary-pattern baldness accounts to 95% of hair thinning or hair loss in men. Some may even begin to experience the effects in the 20s only; women usually notice hair fall after menopause.
With this background information, lets now dive in to the connection between hair loss and genetics.
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What Is Androgenetic Alopecia?
Androgenetic alopecia is not a skin disease; it is a natural condition that occurs due to the combination of genes, hormones, and sometimes aging. You begin to lose hair when androgens, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), come into action.
In case you don’t know, androgens are male hormones that are essential for the sexual development in men before birth and during puberty. They play a key role in certain bodily functions in both men and women, including regulation of hair growth.
When DHT combines with genes, it kills the hair follicles –the tiny spores on the scalp from where a new hair grows. The change in the hair growth cycle results in thinner, shorter, or miniaturized hair. Over time, hair growth completely stops in certain areas of the scalp, leading to pattern hair loss.
The connection of hair loss and genetics is interesting. Some experts say that people inherit pattern baldness from their mother’s family. However, recent studies show that androgenetic alopecia depends on complex genes of both parents. In addition, some environmental factors also contribute to the condition.
Signs of Genetic Hair Loss
Pattern baldness in males and females begins with hair thinning and often leads to complete hair loss in certain parts of the scalp. Hair fall is one of the common symptoms of potential hair loss. If you see hair in the tub, on the pillow, or on the comb, take notice.
On average, a person loses 50 to 100 strands of hair every day; it is a natural process. However, if your strands fall out more often, consider it as an early warning. People with some serious illness are more likely to experience excessive hair fall.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness begins at the crown and temples. It proceeds on the scalp in an M-shaped pattern. Some men may lose hair in patches; however, advanced pattern baldness leaves only a rim of hair along the backside of the scalp.
Female Pattern Baldness
Unlike their male counterparts, women don’t experience hair recession along temples and the forehead. Female pattern baldness tends to have more coverage but it is not as visible as men. The most affected areas include the top of the head down the middle. It often proceeds in a Christmas tree pattern.
Complete hair loss in specific parts on the scalp is not common in women. However, if that happens, it may indicate a different problem, such as a skin condition, a fungus infection, or alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes baldness in patches.
Causes of Hereditary-Pattern Hair Loss
As mentioned above, a combination of DHT and genes cause you to lose hair. While many blame a single gene for this condition, that is not the actual case. Your mother’s X-chromosome may carry some genes that result in pattern baldness at an early age.
However, recent studies show that your susceptibility to pattern baldness depends on the genes of both parents. In addition, several medical conditions, such as prostate cancer and coronary heart disease, make men prone to pattern baldness. Diabetes, obesity, and hypertension also contribute to androgenetic alopecia in men.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to experience pattern baldness if they have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This hormonal imbalance can affect the menstruation cycle in women. In addition, PCOS can cause acne, weight gain, and excess hair growth on different parts of the body except for scalp.
Experts believe that some of these conditions may link with increased levels of androgen. The diagnosis process for androgenetic hair loss is not complex. Your dermatologist will take details of your family history of hair loss. In addition, she will look at the hair loss pattern using magnifiers.
Is There A Cure For Genetic Hair Loss?
Well, there is no straightforward answer to this as many studies are underway. While you may not be able to stop the process completely, you can slow it down with certain medications, treatments, and devices.
First, make sure to take a balanced diet that contains all nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for hair growth. Include fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and leafy greens in your diet. You would be surprised at how much of a difference this will make for the health of your hair.
Try looking in to a laser cap for your hair. These devices are FDA-cleared to help the growth of hair follicles on the scalps of men and women. They are the most popular hair growth treatment on the market today and backed by experts in the hair growth and medical industry.
You should now be more familiar with the connection between hair loss and genetics. Hair loss is scary. If you can catch the beginning stages, you can prepare accordingly. Make sure you see your primary dermatologist to try and figure out the underlying cause. From there, you should be able to take the next steps towards slowing down or reversing your thinning hair.