Androgenetic alopecia (inherited hair loss)

Androgenetic alopecia is a type of hair loss that is inherited from either or both the mother and the father. Also known as male- or female-pattern hair loss, it is the most common cause of hair loss.

The condition occurs when the growth (anagen) phase of the hair growth cycle becomes shorter and shorter. A genetic sensitivity to androgens, a type of hormone, causes hair follicles—where hair growth begins—to sprout hairs that are thinner than normal. The hairs become thinner and thinner, and eventually the follicles die away.

  • In men, hair loss occurs on the front hairline and forehead and on the top of the head. Bald spots are noticeable.
  • In women, hair loss occurs as thinning of hair throughout the entire scalp, including the top and sides. Women do not generally have bald spots but rather have overall thinning hair.

Last Updated: June 17, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology

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