On average, we have approximately 100,000 hair follicles on our head, and even the healthiest of heads will loose on average 100 hairs per day, with each hair follicle regrowing around 20 individual hairs throughout a person’s lifetime.
Pattern Baldness is hugely effected by an individual’s genetics, with the severity and amount of hair loss varying from person to person. Environmental factors don’t seem to greatly affect this type of baldness but the age of a person naturally has an effect. Many clinical studies have been carried out to learn more about pattern baldness, with one Australian study in particular highlighting how mid-frontal hair loss is prevalent in 57% of women and 73.5% of men over the age of 80.
Usually the first sign of male pattern baldness is the loss of hair from the frontal lobe, and the sides of the head. This is commonly referred to as a receding hairline. In addition to the receding of the hairline, a bald patch often develops on top (vertex) of the head. This is triggered by a powerful sex hormone within the body knows as DHT.
It is not yet fully understood how or why DHT can have this effect on the hair. In genetically-prone scalps, DHT induces a process of follicular miniaturisation; a process in which the hair shaft width is decreased over time until eventually the hair resembles fragile vellus hair or “peach fuzz”. Ultimately, it becomes non-existent!
Progressive hair loss of this kind can start as early as puberty, and due to an individuals genetic makeup, is usually unavoidable. The genetics responsible for MPB can be inherited from either parent, or a combination of both.
The psychological effects of hair loss vary massively. Some sufferers adapt to the change comfortably, whilst others understandably have severe problems relating to anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, social phobias and in some cases, identity change.
Even alopecia as a result of chemotherapy has been noted to cause changes in self-concept and body image. Body image does not return to the previous state after regrowth of hair for the majority of patients.
In these cases, patients often have difficulties expressing their feelings (a condition called alexithymia) and may be more prone to avoiding family conflicts. Family therapy can help families to cope with these psychological problems if they arise. Psychological problems due to hairloss, if present, are typically most severe at the onset of symptoms.