Common baldness, medically known as androgenetic alopecia is a prospect that is dreaded by many.
It is however the commonest form of hair loss seen in clinic and affects men (male pattern balding) and women (female pattern hair loss) alike. Whilst it is most associated older men it does also affect younger men and at an earlier age.
What causes balding?
In common balding, hair follicles inherit a sensitivity to male hormone (androgens) in the body causing progressive shortening of the growth phase - a process known as miniaturisation. These miniaturised hairs are shorter and finer meaning they cover the scalp less effectively, resulting in thinning and visible scalp through the hair. Men typically have the receding hair line and or the thinning on the crown, whilst women tend to have a different pattern with thinning on the crown only and a normal hair line.
Contrary to common belief, it is not just passed on from your maternal grand father. The truth is that if it’s anywhere in your family then poses a risk.
Can you treat balding and hair loss?
Historically we’ve treated baldness with topical medications such as Minoxidil, a blood pressure tablet that produces hairiness as a side effect, or Propecia, only licensed for men.
Hair transplation has gained increasing interest in recent years with notable public figures posting photos of themselves after the procedure with an enviable new hairline.
What if you don’t want to take drugs and medication?
A new treatment which is gaining popularity is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) a treatment whereby the growth factors in your own blood are extracted from a blood sample taken from the arm (a bit like having a blood test). The portion of blood containing these growth factors is then re-injected to the desired treatment area.
PRP is used in several other medical fields namely wound healing, tendon injuries, some forms of arthritis and in facial rejuvenation, coined famously as the 'vampire face lift'.
Lab studies have shown that PRP can re-activate dormant hair follicles and several patient case studies have demonstrated encouraging results with regrowth and thickening of hair.
However, larger trials are needed to establish the efficacy when compared to more established treatments. Although like most treatments for balding, repeated sessions would be required to maintain effect, the main advantage of PRP is how safe it is – the fact that it is not a drug and is derived from your own blood appeals to many as a low risk alternative treatment to taking life long (usually) hormonal medication.
With the expanding use of PRP to treat a range of medical conditions, perhaps there always has been some truth in the mystical beliefs of healing properties in blood after all.