Dihydrotestosterone or DHT is an androgen, male sex hormone, which is synthesized in the body by an enzyme called 5α-reductase. This highly active form of testosterone is primarily produced in the adrenal glands, hair follicles, prostate and testes. DHT is responsible for various manly attributes and characteristics like libido, hair growth and even aggression. The amount of DHT produced by the body depends mostly on genetic factors.
Changes in the hormonal balance of the body are a prime cause of hair loss in both men and women. Variations in the metabolism of androgen and increased levels of DHT in males can lead to hair fall and male pattern baldness, known as Androgenic Alopecia. Receding hair line, thinning of the crown, patchy hair loss, complete hair loss etc are some visible identifiers for male pattern baldness.
Androgenic Alopecia is characterized by an increased sensitivity of the hair follicles to DHT. This sensitivity of the hair follicles to hormones is mainly associated with genetic factors and is thus, a hereditary problem. It causes the hair follicles to shrink and reduce in size, and further leads to abnormal hair production, shortened life span of the hair strands and balding.
What Is DHT Hair Loss:
Dermal papilla or papilla of the hair is the most vital part of the hair follicle that is essential for the healthy growth of hair. The papilla is embedded in the scalp and hence, directly draws the essential nutrients important for hair follicle growth, from the blood capillaries. Dermal papilla cells are also responsible for the reproduction of hair follicles. These papilla cells initiate the formation of new hair follicles by dividing and splitting themselves into newer cells. Thus, proper functioning of the dermal papilla is responsible for the growth and maintenance of healthy, strong, nourished and shiny locks.
However, the papilla contains large amounts of androgen receptors. These receptors bind with DHT and hinder the efficient absorption of vital nutrients required for follicle growth while also negatively impacting the life cycle of the follicles. The life cycle of a hair follicle is composed of a resting phase and a growing phase. Due to the presence of DHT and the consequent malnourishment caused, the resting or dormant phase of the follicles lengthens. Miniaturization is the progressive shrinking of the hair follicles and occurs as a result of DHT. It prevents hair shaft elongation and causes regression of the hair follicles.
Miniaturization along with an insufficient supply of vital nutrients hampers the creation and maintenance of healthy hair follicles, thereby leading to shortened hair growth. The altered growing period of the hair follicles and miniaturization make the hair strands thinner, lighter and finer, eventually leading to the growth of vellus hair.
The vellus hair growth stage is marked by the scanty growth of light-colored, thin and short hair on the body, barring the lips, palms and soles of the feet. Vellus hair is barely visible on the scalp and therefore leads to partial or complete balding in males. 95% of the cases of balding in men have been attributed to the ill effects of DHT on the scalp and hair follicles. Greater the amount of DHT produced, greater the miniaturization of hair follicles and thus, greater the amount of hair loss.
DHT Hair Loss Treatments:
Medicinal drugs known as 5α-reductase inhibitors are used to treat this DHT triggered hair loss. These drugs help to battle the problem of male pattern baldness by increasing the blood flow in the follicles and curbing the production of DHT in the body. These medications, however, have visible side effects on the body and hence, should be taken under a doctor’s advice. Maintaining proper nutrition and a healthy diet is also essentially important to combat this hair issue. Various hair treatments are helpful in treating Androgenic Alopecia and the choice of treatment should be made according to the patient’s medical history, lifestyle and personal preferences.
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