Female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in women.
Each strand of hair sits in a tiny hole (cavity) in the skin called a follicle. In general, baldness occurs when the hair follicle shrinks over time, resulting in shorter and finer hair. Eventually, the follicle does not grow new hair. The follicles remain alive, which suggests that it is still possible to grow new hair.
The reason for female pattern baldness is not well understood, but may be related to:
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 problems with the structure of the hair shaft itself.
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:
If minoxidil does not work, your doctor may recommend other medicines, such as spironolactone, cimetidine, birth control pills, ketoconazole, among others. Your doctor can tell you more about these if needed.
During hair transplant, tiny plugs of hair are removed from areas where hair is thicker, and placed (transplanted) in areas that are balding. Minor scarring may occur where hair is removed. There is a slight risk of skin infection. You will likely need many transplants, which can be expensive. However, the results are often excellent and permanent.
Hair weaving, hairpieces, or a change in hairstyle can help hide 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.
Hair loss may affect self-esteem and 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
Bunagan MJK, Banka N, Shapiro J. Hair transplantation update: procedural techniques, innovations, and applications. Dermatol Clin. 2013;31:141-153.
Mesinkovska NA, Bergfeld WF. Hair: what is new in diagnosis and management? Female pattern hair loss update: diagnosis and treatment. Dermatol Clin. 2013;31:119-127.
Sperling LC, Sinclair RD, El Shabrawi-Caelen L. Alopecias. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 69.
Updated by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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