Is Male Pattern Baldness an Autoimmune Disease?
Male pattern hair loss is the leading cause of hair loss among men. In fact, the condition behind this type of hair loss, androgenic alopecia, is also a common culprit of hair loss in women. But despite how common it is, few people know precisely what is behind this condition. Here, we share what we know about male pattern baldness; and no, it is not an autoimmune disease.
What causes male pattern hair loss?
The official medical term for male pattern hair loss is androgenic alopecia. Taking apart this term, you will see the word androgen, which is what science uses to describe male sex hormones like testosterone. Androgenic alopecia occurs when a person has a sensitivity to testosterone. More specifically, it is a sensitivity to a derivative of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT.
People with this sensitivity experience a shrieking of individual hair follicles, which causes the hair to become smaller and finer. Eventually, the hair follicles will stop producing hair altogether. A common misconception about male pattern hair loss is that men with this condition have either too much or too little testosterone. But, again, testosterone levels are not the problem. Rather, it is how the body responds to DHT.
How to know if you have male pattern hair loss
Regrettably, there is no diagnostic test that can predict or show if you do have the genetic makeup that is predisposed for androgenic alopecia. Indeed, the only way to get an idea if you are heading toward hair loss in your future is by looking at your relatives, especially parents, siblings, and grandparents. But aside from this, you won’t really know if you have hair loss until you start noticing changes to your hair.
One of the first signs of hair loss in men is individual hair strands becoming finer. If you see this, it is a cue to keep a close eye on your hair density. Most men see hair thinning start on their hairline, vertex, or crown of their head. So, be sure to keep your eye trained on these areas for any changes in density.
Less apparent, but still a cue, is hair shedding. If you see an uptick in the number of hairs you shed on your pillow, it may also be a sign of hair loss. However, because many men wear their hair quite short, it can be easy to miss fallen strands. Therefore, this is not always the most reliable way to determine hair thinning.
Male pattern hair loss is not an autoimmune disease
When we think of something attacking the body or causing inflammation, we often think of autoimmune diseases. And rightly so, because in an autoimmune disease, the body’s own immune system attacks its own healthy tissues because it is recognized as foreign. This constant attack leads to chronic inflammation, which eventually causes organs to fail.
But androgenic alopecia is not rooted in autoimmunity. In fact, we don’t fully know what causes it, but it does appear to travel in families, so it likely has a genetic component.
Is there treatment for male pattern hair loss?
There is good news and bad news here. To start with the not-so-great news, there is no quick and easy cure-all for treating male pattern hair loss.
But the good news is there are ways to regrow your hair if your hair loss is mild to moderate. Most men find success using a topical solution called minoxidil. This formulation helps block DHT at the follicular level and also increases circulation. Minoxidil has been around for several decades and is quite effective, but a newer formulation called Nanoxidil can penetrate even deeper into the scalp to encourage new strands to grow. Nanoxidil has no known side effects, is not greasy, and is highly effective at reversing hair loss from androgenic alopecia.
Along with topical solutions, you can also support hair growth with shampoos and conditioners that complement the actions of Nanoxidil. And because hair growth starts from the inside out, there are several lifestyle and dietary habits you can implement to encourage hair growth. For example, hair growth supplements, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep and exercise can all benefit your hair.
If you are unsure what is behind your hair loss or where to begin, consulting your health care provider is a good place to start. Sometimes, hair loss can be caused by medical conditions. However, when there are no known conditions behind it, you can usually assume it is male pattern hair loss. And, when you do get that diagnosis, don’t hesitate to start treatment, as the sooner you start, the more likely you will be able to keep existing strands and grow new ones.