Tackling Hereditary Baldness

Hair loss, though often considered as a mere cosmetic issue, is a regular health condition and it can have a number of causes. In some instances hair loss is caused by another health condition but in about 99% of the cases it is a separate condition, a health condition in itself which needs to be treated separately. The most common form of hair loss is hereditary baldness, known as male pattern baldness in men and female pattern baldness in women. As its name indicates this type of hair loss is coded in our genes and, therefore, it is hereditary. One third of men and about a quarter of women suffer from the hereditary form of baldness. Alopecia areata is the second most common form of hair loss, affecting about 2% of the world's population, both men and women in equal terms as well as children. Alopecia areata is also sometimes linked to heredity but no conclusive proof exists to support this claim.

Although male and female pattern baldness have the same main cause, which are the harmful attacks of the body's own hormonal substance dihydrotestosterone on the sensitive hair follicles, their treatment options differ substantially. However, there is one common treatment that can be used in both sexes and that is Rogaine also known under its generic name minoxidil. This substance was approved by the FDA for treating hair loss in the early 1990s and it is applied topically to the balding scalp twice daily. Minoxidil works by stimulating hair regrowth but it does not tackle the hair loss problem at its roots as it does not do anything to counteract the negative effects of dihydrotestosterone. Other existing treatments tend to be more specifically addressing hair loss either in men or in women because they possess different hormonal effects.

The best known hormonal treatment for male pattern baldness is Propecia which is an FDA approved prescription pill for treating hereditary hair loss in men taken once a day. Propecia protects hair follicles from dihydrotestosterone attacks by reducing its levels in the blood by 90%. It cannot be used in women whereas the most effective hair loss pill for women, Aldactone (generic name spironolactone) cannot be in turn used in men. Spironolactone is a blood pressure lowering diuretic prescribed off-label to female patients for the treatment of hormonal acne, seborrhea, hirsutism and hereditary baldness. A number of other mostly hormonally active medicinal as well as herbal treatments exist that can be used to treat hair loss in men and women but none of those other therapies received an FDA approval for treating hair loss till today. Last but not least there is hair surgery which is currently considered to be the ultimate therapy for baldness. However, it is largely only suitable for men as women suffer from diffuse thinning which is more difficult to correct with hair transplantation.