Female pattern baldness involves a typical pattern of hair loss in women, due to hormones, aging, and genes.
A hair grows from its follicle at an average rate of about 1/2 inch per month. Each hair grows for 2 to 6 years, then rests, and then falls out. A new hair soon begins growing in its place.
Baldness occurs when hair falls out and normal new hair does not grow in its place. The reason for female pattern baldness is not well understood, but it may be related to:
Hair loss can occur in women for reasons other than female pattern baldness, including the following:
Hair thinning is different from that of male pattern baldness. In female pattern baldness:
Itching or skin sores on the scalp are generally NOT seen.
Female pattern baldness is usually diagnosed based on:
The doctor will examine you for other signs of too much male hormone (androgen), such as:
A skin biopsy or other procedures or blood tests may be used to diagnose skin disorders that cause hair loss.
Looking at the hair under a microsope may be done to check for arsenic or lead. Looking at the hair this way does not accurately diagnose nutritional problems.
The hair loss in female pattern baldness is permanent, if not treated. In most cases, hair loss is mild to moderate. You do not need treatment if you are comfortable with your appearance.
The only medication approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil. It is applied to the scalp.
If minoxidil does not work, your doctor may recommend a medicine called spironolactone, taken by mouth:
Hair transplants remove tiny plugs of hair from areas where hair is thicker, and place them in areas that are balding. This can cause minor scarring where the hair is removed, and carries a slight risk for skin infection. You will likely need many transplants. This can be expensive. However, the results are often excellent and permanent.
The use of hair implants made of artificial fibers was banned by the FDA because of the high rate of infection.
Stitching (suturing) hair pieces to the scalp is not recommended. It can result in scars, infections, and abscess of the scalp.
Hair weaving, hairpieces, or a change in hairstyle may disguise hair loss and improve your appearance. This is often the least expensive and safest way to deal with female pattern baldness.
Female pattern baldness is usually not a sign of an underlying medical disorder.
Some women say it the baldness affects their self-esteem and may cause anxiety.
Hair loss is usually permanent.
There is no known prevention for female pattern baldness.
Alopecia in women; Baldness - female; Hair loss in women; Androgenetic alopecia in women
Habif TP. Hair diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 24.
Mousney AL, Reed SW. Diagnosis and treating hair loss. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80:356-362.
Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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