Jennifer Mamby Alexander, Contributor
If you look around, you will notice that most of your male friends, or even you, are losing their hair and going bald. This is devastating to most men, especially if it begins in the late teens or 20s. Contrary to what you may have been told, wearing hats, excessive brushing or your girlfriend running her fingers through your hair does not cause balding.
So what is causing hair loss in men?
Any hair loss is called alopecia, and androgens (male hormones) account for more than 95 per cent of common male pattern baldness or hair loss after the age of 20 years. By the age of 35, two-thirds of men will begin experiencing some degree of hair loss, and by age 50, approximately 85 per cent of men will have significant thinning or balding. Male-pattern baldness sufferers have actually inherited hair roots that are sensitive to a specific male hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) that is formed when testosterone breaks down. So guys, your heredity is to blame. The affected hair roots shorten, get smaller, and eventually stop producing hairs.
How does DHT work?
What is known so far is that the hair roots that are sensitive to DHT must be exposed for a few years before they become short and eventually stop producing hairs. Today, with proper treatment, this process can be slowed or even stopped if caught early enough.
How do I know if I am having male pattern hair loss?
This pattern of balding begins at the front hairline, in most cases, first with thinning of the hair and loss of sharpness of the hairline.
Then your forehead begins to look bigger as the hairline forms a 'M' shape.
The front line then moves further back and at the same time a small, rounded bald patch forms at the top, or crown, of the head.
The progressive balding at the front of your head meets the widening bald patch on the crown.
Finally, all the hair on the front and top are lost and only a horseshoe rim of hair is left above the ears and at the sides and back of the head. This remaining hair is resistant to DHT.
Although this is typical for male pattern baldness, variations may occur with only hair loss as a bald patch on the crown, or even just thinning that starts and then does not progress.
So hair loss that does not occur in any of the typical male patterns described above should arouse your suspicion and needs to be checked by your doctor.
Other causes of hair loss include:
Medical conditions like low thyroid hormone levels, fungal scalp infections, anaemia, high fevers, stress, zinc and biotin deficiency, illnesses like lupus or when you suddenly lose hair that leave smooth round scalp patches or a total smooth scalp (Alopecia areata).
Some tablets for cancer, high blood pressure, weight loss or arthritis,
Scars from burns, frequent hair dying, and bleaching.
Myths about male hair loss
Bald men are more virile - NOT TRUE
Frequent sex causes baldness - NOT TRUE
Tight hats cause baldness - While this may not be true, hats and tams can cause hair breakage and lead to unclean scalp and fungal infections, with resulting hair loss.
Contrary to social belief, most men who suffer with hair loss are extremely unhappy and would do anything to change it. Hair loss affects every aspect of the hair loss sufferer's life and most try to first help themselves before going for professional help to improve their general appearance.
This help is important because it:
Makes the man have a better self-image and makes him feel better about himself.
Makes the man appear as young as the other males in his age group and as vigorous as he feels, so that he can enhance his appearance for personal and business relationships
What you may be doing to make it worse
Time is important when it comes to effectively stopping/treating hair loss and trying to hide the problem with braids or locks (designer or real) sometimes only help to pull out the struggling hair roots. The hair 'side-sweep' or completely shaving off the hair only ineffectively hides the problem that is ongoing. Many treatments on the market are nothing but ineffective 'snake oil', and chances are that you are wasting your time and money.
In the past few years, medicine has made tremendous strides in the treatment of hair loss with the use of scalp products, medications and surgical transplants. For the first time in history, it is possible to stop or slow the progression of hair loss and to replace lost hair through surgery with completely natural results.
The option of having a hair transplant is available to those men who have not yet reached the last stages of hair loss. Hair from the back that is not affected by DHT is taken and transplanted into the bald areas. It is critical to begin treatment with effective products as soon as you notice the onset of hair loss, and especially if it begins to bother you, and these services are available in many countries, including Jamaica.
Dr Jennifer Mamby Alexander, MD, is the owner and director of The Hair Loss Clinic of Jamaica, 1 Ripon Road, Kingston 5; member of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeries. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org