Female pattern baldness
Female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in women.
Alopecia in women; Baldness - female; Hair loss in women; Androgenetic alopecia in women; Hereditary balding or thinning 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.
Exams and Tests
Female pattern baldness is usually diagnosed based on:
The health care provider will examine you for other signs of too much male hormone (androgen), such as:
A skin biopsy of the scalp 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.
Untreated, hair loss in female pattern baldness is permanent. In most cases, hair loss is mild to moderate. You do not need treatment if you are comfortable with your appearance.
The only medicine approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil:
If minoxidil does not work, your provider may recommend other medicines, such as spironolactone, cimetidine, birth control pills, ketoconazole, among others. Your provider 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
There is no known prevention for female pattern baldness.
Habif TP. Hair diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 24.
Marks JG, Miller JJ. Hair disorders. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 20.
Tosti A. Diseases of hair and nails. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 442.
Review Date: 1/31/2016
Reviewed 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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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