Male baldness: common causes

Male baldness is the most common cause of hair loss worldwide. In men, it’s called male pattern hair loss. Women get female pattern hair loss. Regardless of whether it develops in a man or women, the medical term is androgenic alopecia. Male baldness — you may hear it called androgenetic alopecia — is triggered by the genes you got from your parents. Exactly how it is inherited isn’t clear, but it does tend to run in families. So if you have close relatives who are balding, you’re more likely to have it, too.

Doctors don’t fully understand why certain hormonal changes cause hair follicles to shrink, or why the balding process gradually happens in the same pattern for most men. But it usually starts with a thinning of the hairline above your temples and crown.

Depending on your family history, male pattern baldness can start as early as your teens. Not only will your hair get thinner, but it may get soft, fine, and shorter. Learn more about the steps you can take to help prevent going bald if you spot the warning signs early enough.

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With male baldness, hair loss typically follows a predictable pattern. The two most common patterns of hair loss include the following:

Hair starts to thin on top of the head and around the temples. This pattern may eventually leave a “horseshoe” of hair around the sides and back of the head.
Hair starts to recede from the front of the hairline, pushing the hairline further back on the head.

The degree and progression of balding in men is assessed by the Norwood classification system. It has seven stages that measure the severity and pattern of hair loss and balding.

Male baldness


Genetics (read: family history) is the overwhelming culprit of balding among men. Male pattern baldness (MPB) accounts for more than 95 percent of hair loss among men in the U.S. Medically known as androgenetic alopecia, male pattern baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and thinning around the crown of the head. The American Hair Loss Association reports some 25 percent of men start to see the effect of MPB as young as age 21.

Hereditary hair loss is usually caused by hormonal changes. “Hormonal imbalances play a big role in both male and female pattern hair loss,” says Benjamin Paul, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in NYC. “Genetic hair loss often involves a sensitivity to androgens, hence the [term] ‘androgenic alopecia.

Temporary hair loss can be a sign of a medical issue, like anemia or thyroid problems. A diet low in protein and iron can also cause your hair to thin.

Your risk for hair loss is higher if you have diabetes or lupus.

Hair loss could be a side effect of certain drugs you take for:

High blood pressure
Heart problems

Radiation treatment or chemotherapy can cause widespread hair loss, but usually your hair will grow back with time, once the treatments end.

Sudden or excessive weight loss, a severe physical or emotional shock, surgery, or even fever and the flu can bring hair loss that could last several months.

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