(BPT) - Whether it's a few extra hairs in the sink or a completely bare scalp, baldness is a common issue for many people - not just men. Balding generally refers to hair loss from your scalp, usually caused by genetics, environment, various medications or an underlying medical condition. It is often characterized with a receding hairline and thinning crown near the temples and mid-anterior scalp.
The word "alopecia" is the medical term for hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia, a typical pattern of male baldness beginning at the hairline and gradually receding, is the most common form of hair loss, accounting for more than 95 percent of the cases in men. A quarter of those men start seeing signs of hair loss before they reach 21. But there are also several hundred diseases that include hair loss as a primary symptom. By age 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of noticeable hair loss, and by age 50, about 85 percent of men have significantly thinning hair.
Most people dealing with baldness have hair follicles with an inherited or genetic sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative or by-product of testosterone. Hair follicles that are sensitive to this hormone begin to shrink, which over time shortens the lifespan of each affected hair follicle. Eventually, these follicles prevent hair from growing altogether, resulting in a bald spot.
Even though baldness is perceived to be a male condition, women actually make up 40 percent of American hair loss sufferers. Hair loss in children is also more common than most people think and currently is responsible for about 3 percent of all pediatric office visits in the country.
Balding can be slowed or even stopped if caught early enough. Many experts agree the best results happen when you begin treatment as soon as possible after the hair loss begins.
There are several ways to treat and handle alopecia today, most of which are indicated by the severity or progression of the disease. While some people let their baldness naturally run its course, others use hairstyles, makeup or clothing to cover the condition. There are also medications and surgical procedures available to treat and prevent hair loss, but individuals should always contact their doctor to first discuss their options before pursuing any treatment.
The most popular over-the-counter (non-prescription) topical hair regrowth treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contain minoxidil, including Rogaine. Minoxidil is not intended for frontal baldness or receding hairline.
Allegan, Mich.-based Perrigo is a pharmaceutical company that manufactures and distributes most of the over-the-counter medications found under store-brand labels at leading retailers, grocers, club stores and pharmacies. The company recently received approval from the FDA to market an over-the-counter, store-brand minoxidil 5 percent foam for men, which compares to the active ingredient in Men's Rogaine.
The company also markets store-brand minoxidil 5 percent topical solution (extra strength for men) and minoxidil 2 percent topical solution (regular strength for men), as well as minoxidil 2 percent topical solution for women, which compares to the active ingredient in Women's Rogaine.
Researchers believe that minoxidil works in part by partially enlarging the hair follicles and reversing the shrinking process. By enlarging follicles, the growth phase of the hair cycle is prolonged, allowing the hair to become longer and thicker looking.