Genetic Hair Loss: Treatments and Testing

Family and genetic hair loss
Photo: Goodluz/Shutterstock
Throughout our history, society has been very critical of the changes that occur in individuals as they age. Our media-obsessed and advertising-saturated culture focuses on perceived physical ideals of youth, slimness, and aesthetic perfection. These are standards that no one can live up to, not even the models presented to embody these ideals. In all of this, one particular issue comes to the forefront for most people: hair loss.
Hair loss is an issue that affects both men and women. According to studies, 35% of men will experience noticeable hair loss by the age of 35, and 60% of women will have noticeable hair loss by the age of 65. The most common cause of this is a condition called androgenic alopecia, which is predominantly a genetic trait. It can be exacerbated by other physical, health, and environmental factors.
Such hair loss is not universally seen. Androgenic Alopecia is most common among Caucasian men, followed by those of Asian descent, and then African Americans. People of Native American descent (as well as Eskimos) have the lowest rate of occurrence for androgenic alopecia. While women are not as commonly affected by this condition, approximately 13% of pre-menopausal women have shown evidence of it, and as many as 75% of women over 65 show signs of it.
Until very recently, historically speaking, the only options for dealing with hair loss caused by androgenic alopecia were acceptance or concealment. Men and women who suffered such hair loss were forced to either come to terms with going bald or find some way to conceal the loss of hair. This resulted in some unfortunate looks for some people. Bad comb-overs and fake-looking toupees were at the top of the list of the greatest offenses.
Then around thirty years ago, a drug used to treat high blood pressure was found to cause new hair growth in men with androgenic alopecia. Eventually, it began to be used as a primary treatment for this secondary ability. It was applied topically and gave good results to many individuals.
A few decades later, a drug used for the treatment of enlarged prostate in men was seen to have a similar result in regrowing hair in men with androgenic alopecia. In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. This drug, called finasteride, gained popularity due to its ease of use as an oral medication.
Woman who is suffering from hair loss
Photo: Africa Images via Canva
The greatest problem with these treatments is that they are long-term and must be continued indefinitely to maintain the results achieved. If the medications are discontinued, the benefits gained will dissipate within six to twelve months. Furthermore, there is no evidence that finasteride has any benefit for women in terms of hair loss. In fact, women are discouraged from handling finasteride, particularly if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, as the drug can be absorbed through the skin and can cause defects in male fetuses.
A secondary issue is that the effectiveness of finasteride varies among different male individuals. And some men may undertake the expense of long-term treatment and maintenance only to find that they get no benefit from the drug.
Despite these ominous warnings, finasteride has seen increased popularity as a hair loss treatment. Advances in genetic testing have enabled scientists to devise a test to determine the likelihood of androgenic alopecia in both men and women. Further studies have led to the development of genetic testing to determine how effective finasteride will be for an individual.
The HairDX test, a hair loss test, has allowed individuals to get an idea of how likely they are to experience hair loss as they get older and how extensive that hair loss could be. While granting some individuals peace of mind concerning the future of their hair, it allows others who are not so lucky to know what to expect and enables them to make an informed decision on how soon to begin treatments (if desired) to gain maximum benefit. The test for genetic hair loss works for both men and women, although the treatment options for women are more limited.
Continue reading ...