What is Baldness?
Baldness can be explained as when certain parts or the entire scalp lacks hair. This occurs when the hole (follicle) in which the hair strand sits shrinks over time, eventually it stops producing new hair resulting in baldness.
Baldness can happen to both genders, although it’s usually more of an issue in men and can occur as early as teenage years. When women experience this condition it’s comparable to thinning of the hair and typically takes place after menopause.
The cause of baldness is generally down to genes and hormones. However, it can be as a result of illnesses or from medical treatments. (1)
Each one of our hair strands grows out of minute holes called follicles. Hair usually grows for up to six years, after this point it enters a static phase, before it falls out altogether. The whole cycle then repeats itself, the follicle starts by producing a new strand of hair to replace the old one.
There are different types of baldness but the most common is androgenic alopecia. This condition can affect both men and women and is also known as pattern baldness. (2)
It’s very common in the US, 50 million men and 30 million women are thought to be affected by this type of baldness. Chances increase with age, although in men it can start in the late teens. (3)
One cause points towards androgen hormones. The right body balance is important for both males and females when it comes to hair growth.
If the follicles have too much of this hormone, the hair growth cycle can become shorter. The hair becomes thinner and shorter, it will also take longer for the follicle to replace it once it falls out.
Genetics is another reason. Those with family members affected by baldness are more likely to have the same issue. (4)
Symptoms differ between men and women. Men will usually see larger and fast progressing bald spots, where symptoms for women tend to progress a little slower.
Typical symptoms for baldness include:
This is a telltale sign of baldness. The hairline begins to retreat from the forehead towards the crown (top) of the head.
As it recedes the hairline will typically form an “M” shape. (5)
The hair will begin to grow out thinner, finer and shorter where it eventually breaks and stops growing, this can create a U shape around the head. (6)
It’s common for women to find their hair thins out as they age. However, if the hair becomes sparse from the top of the head and continues to spread across the scalp, it could be a sign of female pattern baldness. (7)
In cases of female baldness the front hairline generally remains unaffected. However, the hair does start to thin out at the top of the head. (8)
It’s normal for both men and women to lose around 100 strands of hair each day. However, if it starts falling out in large clumps or at a faster rate it’s a definite indicator of baldness.
For women, hair loss rarely ends in complete baldness, yet for men it could mean the end of a full head of hair. (9)
Over the decades many physicians have come up with different classifications of baldness.
The most commonly used is one by a man named Norwood. His way of describing the types of pattern baldness could be used for both men and in some cases women. (10)
Women tend to lose hair aggressively than men and usually it doesn’t end in complete baldness rather just thinner hair especially around the top of the head and around the center.
Recession of the hairline has not started, therefore minimal changes will be seen.
The hairline on the temples will start moving backwards, usually in a symmetrical shape. The front temples will now appear more exposed.
Temples are more exposed and the hairline retreats in a symmetrical shape. The middle area remains unaffected. Some men may experience hair loss on the top of the head as well.
The hairline has now moved further back, leaving more of the scalp exposed. A bald spot or a spot with thin fine hair is visible on the top of the head.
The recession in the front hairline region still only affects the temples, leaving a patch at the front of the scalp unaffected.
The middle section of the forehead has now become an island of hair. The hairline has also moved further back, closer to the bald spot on the top of the head.
The connections between the bald areas are thinning out and remaining hair will appear sparse.
The extent of hair loss is now significant. This is because the connections between bald areas have widened and the bridges of hair on top of the head have become even more sparse.
With the last type and stage the hairline has formed a U or horseshoe shape around the head. Some may be completely bald while others may still have fine hairs across the scalp.
Unless baldness is caused by a more serious condition, treatment is only really necessary if you are unhappy with your appearance.
Treatments vary from men and women. For women, if hair loss remains untreated it will stay permanent. However, if treatment has commenced it should continued long term, this is because the hair will typically fall out once treatment is stopped.
Minoxidil has been used to treat hair loss in men for many years now, yet recently it has been deemed effective for women too. This treatment encourages re-growth of hair. (13)
However, men do have other options. This includes medication which encourages production of testosterone. Deficiency in this sex hormone has been linked to baldness.
During a hair transplant, healthy hair strands from non balding parts of the scalp are removed and transferred to the offending areas. (14)
This procedure tends to be expensive, particularly because you will most likely need more than one attempt. Yet the results are generally positive and remain permanent.
However, there are risks involved, such as infections and scarring, but outcomes usually outweigh the risk.
Change of Hairstyle
If medicines or hair transplants aren’t viable options for you, a change of hairstyle or using a hairpiece could be other solutions to cover baldness.
Again, this depends on personal preference and is not needed unless you have an issue with your appearance.
What is baldness? Baldness can be explained as a condition where sections or the entire scalp lacks hair, which has the tendency not to grow back.
What are the signs of baldness? Signs depends on which type of baldness you have. Some start by a receding hairline, followed by finer, shorter hair strands. Other signs can include patches of hair falling out.
How do you develop baldness? Baldness is generally passed on through genes. Other causes include hormones or side effects to other conditions or medical treatments.
How are you diagnosed for baldness? Doctors will usually start by simply looking at your head. Even if it’s still in early stages the hairline will look thinner. Although doctors will also ask about the medical history of you and your family, check for any underlying issues to rule out any serious conditions as the cause. A skin biopsy might be done to check for any skin disorders. (15)
What is the best treatment for baldness? In normal cases there are a few medicines which can help, but these depend on your gender. A hair transplant can be another solution. Although treatment is not necessary unless the hair loss is bothering you. However if the baldness is caused by serious condition you might need treatment for that.
What are the long term complications of baldness? Unless it’s caused by a serious illness, long term complications are typically self-esteem issues.
Is baldness considered a disability? No, because baldness generally does not affect your physical or mental abilities.
Is there a cure for baldness? Certain medicines, if taken long term can alleviate symptoms of baldness, however results can vary. A hair transplant can also be a solution for some people.
Is baldness life threatening? General baldness is not fatal. However if it’s caused by a more serious illness which remains untreated it could be life threatening.
Although some might experience it prematurely as a rule baldness is a common issue affecting most people as they age. For most, the blame can be pointed towards genetics or hormonal imbalances, yet medication and other illnesses can be a factor.
Furthermore, baldness is not deemed a serious or life threatening condition, for many it does affect self-esteem and confidence levels. This means it can have a negative impact upon day to day life.
However, there are treatments available to reduce or slow down the effects and thanks to modern science hair transplants have shown to be an effective solution for many.