There are different types of hair loss that can affect women and it’s important to differentiate between these so as to seek proper treatment. Every one of us is born with a fixed number of hair follicles. Shedding of 80 – 100 hair strands per day is normal-but more than this is abnormal and needs to be assessed.
So what is female-pattern baldness then?
Female pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is a distinct type of progressive hair loss in women. It can affect any woman after puberty. By the age of 50 years, around 40% of women are affected by female-pattern hair loss. In affected women, there is diffuse thinning and increased shedding of the scalp hair.
But what causes FPHL?
This kind of hair loss is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal influences. FPHL is also seen in women who do not have any family history of baldness.
Female-pattern baldness occurs when hair follicles are sensitive to normal circulating androgen hormones. But this does not mean that there is an underlying hormonal abnormality or an excess of hormones in the body. In fact, a majority of women with FPHL have a normal hormonal profile.
This is the reason why routine hormonal testing is not required when diagnosing female-pattern hair loss, but your doctor may recommend hormonal testing if there are other signs of an androgen excess in the body like increased facial hair, acne, irregular periods, or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
What are the signs and symptoms of female-pattern hair loss?
In FPHL, the hair follicles progressively become shorter in length and smaller in diameter which causes thinning of the hair and eventually hair loss.
Women affected by FPHL have diffuse thinning of the scalp hair and widening of the central parting. The hairline at the front of the scalp remains normal but many women experience thinning of hair along the hairline as well.
Some women may experience periods of increased hair thinning and shedding followed by periods of stability. But, female-pattern baldness progresses over the years and hair volume and density gradually decreases on the scalp.
How can this kind of hair loss be treated?
The main aim of the treatment for female-pattern baldness is to slow down the progression of hair thinning and hair loss. Treatment options include topical and oral medications.
Low-level laser therapy and platelet rich plasma can also be considered in selected cases. Other options include cosmetic camouflage like wigs, hair pieces, hair bulking powder or spray preparations containing synthetic fibres and surgical treatment like hair transplantation.
It is important that you seek advice from your doctor because every patient needs to be assessed and patient circumstances might differ which may alter the advice and course of the treatment.