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Most women experience hair loss to some degree as they age, due to hair strands becoming thinner and finer in addition to the loss of follicles. However, because the loss is usually less pronounced or noticeable in women than it is in men, there is a social stigma attached to it that is absent for men because baldness is so common among them as to be expected in many cases.
A dramatic hair loss in a woman should be evaluated by a physician as it may be a sign of medical condition, such as a hormone-producing tumor or an endocrine disorder. If no medical cause is discovered, however, the culprit may be female pattern baldness.
Different Patterns, Similar Origins
The two types of male or female pattern baldness actually have more in common with one another than you might expect: causes and treatments are similar, as is the typical time of onset: around midlife for men and after menopause for women. The main difference, apart from the greater prevalence of baldness in men, is the pattern that the hair loss follows. While men tend to experience a receding hairline, women tend to lose hair all over their heads at once, but especially near their temples and their part lines.
The causes of female pattern baldness are similar to the causes of male pattern baldness: heredity and hormones. Women with a family history of baldness are more likely to experience hair loss, especially if baldness occurred in female family members.
Male sex hormones called androgens are present in both men and women, though in different quantities. Androgens serve important functions in both sexes, including sex drive and hair growth regulation, which is why they can contribute to baldness. Androgens are essential for normal male sexual development so, needless to say, they are present in larger quantities within men’s bodies, which may be part of the reason why men are more likely than women to go completely bald. Pronounced hair loss in a woman may be a sign of abnormal androgen production.
Treatment options for male or female pattern baldness are similar for both. They typically include medications to stop production of androgens and/or regrow hair, or transplantation of hair follicles.