Hair loss is a significant problem among men in the United States, especially among the older ones. Estimation shows that male pattern baldness affects some 50 million men in the country. The risk of this problem rises as a man gets older. Almost one in three men are affected by age 30. This rate increases by nearly 100% by age 60. A major factor in male pattern baldness, the most common type of male hair loss, is DHT. What is this and how exactly does it lead to male hair loss? And what can you do to deal with it? Find out the answers by continuing reading.
Fully known as dihydrotestosterone, DHT is an androgen sex steroid and hormone. It is a product of another androgen hormone, testosterone. The enzyme 5-alpha-reductase (5α-reductase) converts testosterone to DHT in certain tissues of the body, including hair follicles, seminal vesicles, prostate gland and epididymides. When the amount of 5α-reductase in the body rises, more testosterone is converted. There are two main types of these enzymes present in the body. Type 1 are mostly in the sebaceous glands below your skin, while Type 2 are mainly in hair follicles and urinary tract. It is the latter variant that contributes more to hair loss.
It is estimated that around five percent of free testosterone in the body gets converted into DHT. Interestingly, the latter androgen hormone is said to be possibly up to 10 times more powerful than the former. DHT binds more strongly to follicle receptors.
Dihydrotestosterone is mainly useful for sexual development. It is vital for the formation of sexual features, including external genitalia, in a male embryo. It functions as the main androgen in the seminal vesicles, prostate gland and hair follicles of older males. Being an androgen substance, DHT promotes masculine characteristics that differentiates a man from a woman. The issues that could result from low levels include male genitalia and prostate that is not well developed.
You also need DHT for efficient metabolic processes in your body. For example, it contributes to the production of blood cells. Men with low amount may experience loss in muscle mass and reduction in strength. Dihydrotestosterone could help improve your mood, aid weight loss and enhance your sex life, among other benefits. One interesting thing about this androgen steroid is that it is useful for growth of hair on the body, even though the general belief is that is contributes to hair loss.
As we already stated, DHT is a key factor in male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. It is fascinating how hair grows in different parts of the body with respect to this androgen hormone. While it is not useful for growth of hair on your head, it is essential for hair in virtually all other parts of your body. It is relevant to be familiar with the stages of hair growth to better understand how DHT contributes to male hair loss. There are three main phases in the natural hair growth process. These are:
Anagen – Most of the hairs on the
head of an average human is in this phase. The length of this phase
determines how long your hairs will be. This may last up to six years.
Catagen – Hair follicles gets renewed during this phase, which lasts just about two weeks.
Telogen – This last period may last up to four months. It is the resting phase. Follicles are dormant at this stage getting ready to shed hairs for new growth in the next anagen phase.
DHT interferes with this natural process of hair growth. It sets off a process known as miniaturization, which sees your hair shaft become thinner with each hair growth cycle. The androgen hormone attaches to receptor cells of susceptible hair follicles known as dermal papilla. This root is considered the most essential part of follicles that facilitates hair growth. It extracts essential nutrients for hair growth direct from your blood capillaries. Binding with the many androgen receptors in the papilla, DHT prevents vital nutrients from getting to your hair. This then clears the way for male pattern baldness to set in.
As a result, DHT throws the hair growth process out of balance. It shortens the anagen phase and extends the telogen phase. This reduces how long your hair can grow before it stops. They also remain in the resting or dormant phase for longer, getting ready to be shed with the next anagen phase. Over time, the hair growth phase becomes shorter and shorter, while the telogen phase gets longer and longer. Miniaturization combined with constant insufficient supply of essential nutrients make hair strands become quite thin, light and fine. Your hairs are in the long run reduced to vellus hairs, comparable to the type that babies have. It gets to a point when hair stops growing altogether.
Male pattern baldness begins in parts of your head where you have the most genetically-susceptible follicles. It usually starts with the front and top scalp. The risk of miniaturization and significant hair loss increases with the levels of DHT in the body. However, the hormone doesn't lead to balding in women as it does in men. It is only one of several factors that cause hair loss in females.
You are likely to be prescribed medications known as 5α-reductase inhibitors if you approached your doctor for help with hair loss brought about by DHT. This is understandable when you consider the role that the enzyme plays in its production. The following are treatment suggestions your doctor may provide.
This is a 5α-reductase inhibitor. Finasteride is considered one of only two drugs that have been approved for hair loss treatment. Many people know it by brand names such as Propecia and Proscar. It is arguably the most popular medication for blocking DHT. The drug works by binding itself to the enzyme that converts free testosterone into DHT. Through this action, it helps to reduce the amount of the hormone roving around in your bloodstream. But you are likely to experience certain side effects from use. These include:
• Cold sweats
• Swelling in face, arms or legs
• Low libido
• Difficulty in achieving erection
• Reduction in semen quantity
• Weight gain
You need to continue using Finasteride without stopping to keep hair loss at bay. It is not meant for use by women, especially the pregnant ones.
Also known by the brand name Rogaine, minoxidil is another treatment approved by the FDA for treating male hair loss. It is a topical solution that you have to apply onto your scalp to stimulate hair follicles. Minoxidil can help to prevent hair loss and possibly promote growth of new hair. It is estimated to help with about 60 percent of male pattern baldness cases. You can easily get it from pharmacies, unlike finasteride, which is a prescription medication. Its side effects include:
• Skin rash
• Inflammation and swelling
• Blurred vision
• Irregular heartbeat
You must not stop using minoxidil if you desire to see and maintain results.
This is another 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor. It is available under the brand name Avodart. Dutasteride is mainly used for treating symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It works by inactivating the 5α-reductase enzyme to block DHT formation. This makes it potentially useful for combating male hair loss. This drug is said to be way more powerful than finasteride in dealing with the two main types of the DHT-making enzyme. Perhaps, this makes it a better option for people with androgenic alopecia. You should note, however, that dutasteride can produce side effects, which include:
• Tightness in chest
• Difficulty breathing
• Swelling of face, mouth, lips, tongue or throat
• Peeling skin
• Nipple discharge
• Breast enlargement or lumps
• Reduced sexual desire or ability
In rare cases, it can lead to breast cancer in men. Dutasteride may interact with certain medications. Women who are pregnant or trying to be are advised against even handling the drug.
If you are looking for longer-lasting results, you may want to consider hair transplant. But note that this is slightly invasive and rather expensive. This procedure involves the transfer of hair from normal portions of the scalp to the balding section. You are likely to require multiple sessions before you get the quality of results you desire. Professionals handling this procedure typically give local anesthesia to help individuals with hair loss issues deal with discomfort. Bleeding and scarring are part of the risks involved in hair transplantation. You may also have an infection from the procedure if due diligence is not observed.
For those who would rather not choose medications or a transplant, there are natural solutions that may be beneficial. Below are some of these remedies.
This herb is useful in dealing with symptoms of enlarged prostate gland or BPH, based on evidence from research. Nettle may assist in reducing the size of an enlarged prostate. You will recall that we mentioned earlier that BPH is associated to DHT levels in the body. By reducing the amount of the androgen hormone, this natural remedy may also help to fight male hair loss. It is also thought beneficial for preventing conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
You may also get help from pumpkin seed in fighting male pattern baldness. Evidence suggests that it can not only prevent hair loss, but also promote hair growth. Pumpkin seed interferes with the activity of the DHT-making enzyme and breaks down the hormone through the liver. It features a steroid known as Delta-7 stearine. This prevents accumulation of DHT in your hair follicles.
Fully known as Pygeum africanum, this natural remedy helps to cut down on the amount of DHT in the blood. It is able to do this through the presence of phytosterols in it. Pygeum reduces the number of binding sites for the testosterone product. It is also said to have constituents that help to manage cholesterol and prolactin levels. The amount of cholesterol in the body is believed to play a role in the extent of DHT binding sites in follicles.
This is a key ingredient found in food items such as watermelon, tomatoes and mangoes. Lycopene is a powerful natural DHT regulator. It inhibits the activity of 5α-reductase to prevent or slow conversion of testosterone into its stronger form.
These days, many people are aware of the awesome benefits from drinking green tea. It contains powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. It lowers cholesterol and DHT. Green tea may not only prevent hair loss, but also promote growth. Its other benefits include weight loss, anti-aging and cancer prevention.
Tuna, bananas, berries, salmon and peanuts are some foods that you may need to consume more to guard against male hair loss. The reason is that they offer biotin, which is also known as vitamin B7. This water-soluble vitamin is said to condition your scalp to facilitate hair growth. Studies suggest that it can help with a variety of health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes.
Botanically known as Serenoa repens, saw palmetto is arguably one of the most popular natural remedies for blocking DHT. According to research, it is a potent anti-androgen for BPH, which is caused by elevated DHT levels. It is quite beneficial in that it meddles with 5α-reductase activity and prevents DHT from binding to receptor cells. It follows then that saw palmetto may be beneficial for treating male hair loss linked to the hormone. The herb is also very safe when used appropriately.
DHT is important in the body, but you also need to regulate its levels to prevent male hair loss. The drugs mentioned can help to deal with male pattern baldness, but hair transplant may offer more convincing results. The suggested herbal or natural solutions could also be beneficial. The potency of these herbs sometimes increases when they are combined in the right proportions. You may consider oral supplements that offer them in their formulas. Some people have, however, warned against taking anything that blocks DHT production, especially the natural supplement saw palmetto. Whatever course of action you decide on, you should try to discuss that with your doctor or other relevant professional.
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