What is DHT?

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What is DHT?
What is DHT? (Image: Image by Lusi at sxc.hu)

Hair loss can be traumatic. It causes a great deal of anxiety for many men and can even damage the self-esteem. At the very least, it can cause a man to look older than his actual age. Finding the cause of hair loss can be the first step toward treating it, and DHT has been implicated in male pattern baldness.

Identification

DHT (didydotesterone) is a naturally occurring substance that has been implicated in male pattern baldness. It is essentially a byproduct of testosterone, the primary sex hormone in the male body. According to WebMD, DHT shrinks the hair follicles of men, leading to male pattern baldness.

Function

In the male body, testosterone converts to DHT, and an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase works to help this process along. According to the American Hair Loss Association, scientists are unsure of exactly how DHT impairs the hair follicle, but they do know that inhibiting it results in hair follicles that thrive instead of shrinking. Men with male pattern baldness are born with a genetic hair-follicle sensitivity to DHT.

Considerations

Marked by a receding hairline and thinned hair at the top of the head, male pattern baldness may develop because those particular areas are the most vulnerable to DHT. With time, this pattern of hair loss may progress far enough to leave just a horseshoe pattern of hair. In some cases, even this tiny bit of leftover hair remains vulnerable to the effects of DHT.

Effects

DHT doesn't just cause the hair follicles shorten. It can actually affect the entire growth potential of the hair. Given time, this hormone actually leads hair follicles to stop producing hair altogether. Fortunately, DHT must be present for a prolonged amount of time to affect a man's follicles. According to WebMD, this means that some medications that inhibit DHT may be able to stop this process or slow it down. Treatment, however, should be started early to have the best chance of working.

Prevention/Solution

DHT-induced hair loss can be treated with medication. One popular treatment is PROPECIA® (finasteride), a prescription medication that inhibits the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. The American Hair Loss Association says that daily use of this drug can reduce DHT to 40 percent of its former level in the body. There is also a full range of nonprescription products designed to inhibit DHT. The manufacturers of these products claim they work, but without FDA approval, it is impossible to know for sure. Since the FDA does not have an approval process for supplements, it is best to discuss the ingredients with your doctor to determine whether or not using such a supplement is really worth your time and money.

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