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Male Pattern Baldness Vs. Alopecia Areata: How Are They Different?

UPGUYS > Blog > Hair > Male Pattern Baldness vs. Alopecia Areata: How Are They Different?
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on June 03, 2022

If you're losing your hair, you may feel like you've lost your sense of identity—and you're not alone. 

Men who experience hair loss often report concerns over lowered attractiveness, dating, increased anxiety, and even suffer depression.

Fortunately, up to 95% of hair loss cases in men can be slowed down, treated or even reversed. Treatment options vary according to the cause of baldness. Two of the most common causes are male pattern baldness and alopecia areata. 

Interested in male pattern baldness vs. alopecia? Keep reading to learn more about these conditions and how to talk to a practitioner about potential treatment options.

In this article, we'll talk about the following:

  1. What Exactly Is Male Pattern Baldness?
  2. Causes of Male Pattern Baldness
  3. Male Pattern Baldness Symptoms
  4. What Exactly Is Alopecia Areata?
  5. Causes of Alopecia Areata
  6. Alopecia Areata Symptoms
  7. How To Take Charge of Your Hair Loss

What Exactly Is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia or male pattern alopecia, is the most common cause of hair loss for men. 

By 50 years of age, most men will experience male pattern hair loss such as balding, a receding hairline, or noticeable thinning. However, sometimes it can begin in your late teens or twenties. 

Causes of Male Pattern Baldness

Several genetic and environmental factors can leave you at higher risk for androgenetic alopecia. Many factors remain unknown, but research has shown that androgen hormones have something to do with it. 

Androgens are essential for male sexual development and help regulate sex drive and hair growth. There is a connection between male pattern baldness and other conditions, such as prostate cancer and coronary heart disease. Some of these conditions are characterized by elevated androgen levels, which may explain why they occur in tandem with hair loss related to androgens.

Most male pattern baldness is frequently caused by genetics. The condition tends to cluster in families. If you have a close relative with male pattern baldness, you're more likely to develop the condition.

Hair loss may also occur due to other conditions. This may be the case if you experience hair loss in patches, your hair breaks, you shed a lot, or you have scaling, pus, or pain. Your doctor may recommend blood tests or a skin biopsy if they believe the hair loss is related to another condition, such as alopecia areata vs. male pattern baldness. 

Symptoms of Male Pattern Baldness

Male pattern alopecia is typically diagnosed based on the appearance of hair loss

Male pattern baldness will cause hair loss in a distinct pattern. As your hairline recedes, it creates a distinctive "M" shape. Most men experience hair thinning at the crown, which will lead to partial or complete baldness.

Eventually, your hair will become thinner, shorter, and more delicate. Severe male pattern baldness leads to a U-shaped pattern of hair with a bald area on the back of the head and hair around the sides. 

What Exactly Is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that impacts hair follicles.

When you have this condition, T cells, or immune system cells, recognize your hair follicle cells as foreign. The T cells then attack them, which causes inflammation of the hair follicles. When hair follicles are inflamed, they lose their hair. It's then impossible to regrow hair until the inflammation is treated.

Alopecia is unpredictable. There's no way to know when your hair will fall out or how much you will lose.

If you do regrow hair, you won't know when, how much, or if it will last. Fortunately, alopecia areata isn't scarring, so your hair follicles can regrow hair once your autoimmune response is suppressed. 

Causes of Alopecia

It's unclear why alopecia happens, but you're more likely to suffer from it if you have:

  1. A family history of alopecia
  2. Down syndrome
  3. Asthma
  4. Thyroid disease
  5. Vitiligo
  6. Pernicious anemia
  7. Seasonal allergies

Your doctor may check your hair follicles, examine your nails, and talk to you about your symptoms to diagnose alopecia. In rare cases, you'll have a biopsy. To rule out other conditions, your doctor may order blood tests or test your skin for fungal infections.

Common Symptoms of Alopecia

While the amount of hair loss varies by person, most people with alopecia will lose hair in clumps, the shape and size of a quarter.

There are many types of alopecia areata. Each class is characterized by the pattern or location of hair loss:

  1. Localized alopecia areata (patchy alopecia): one or more patches of hair loss on the scalp
  2. Alopecia universalis: loss of all the hair on the body, including the eyebrows, scalp, eyelashes, and body hair
  3. Alopecia barbae: one or more bald patches in the facial hair
  4. Sisaipho alopecia areata: loss of hair on the top of the head
  5. Alopecia totalis: loss of all the hair on the scalp
  6. Ophiasis alopecia areata: loss of hair on the sides and back of the scalp
  7. Alopecia areata incognita: diffuse hair loss on the scalp (no full bald spots)

Often the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. However, you may suffer from pitted, brittle, and red fingernails and toenails. Typically, you'll experience more hair loss in cold weather.

Male Pattern Baldness vs. Alopecia Areata: What's the Difference?

Although they both affect hair loss and regrowth, there are several differences between male pattern baldness vs. alopecia areata. 

The main difference is that hair loss from alopecia areata is usually temporary. It stems from an autoimmune flare-up. However, if left untreated, you can experience frequent flare-ups that can limit your ability to regrow hair. 

Male pattern baldness is typically genetic and linked to an excess of testosterone. There are no cures for male pattern baldness or alopecia areata, but there are treatments available that can make managing these conditions easier. 

Read more: Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss

Take Charge of Your Hair Loss

Now that you know the difference between male pattern baldness vs. alopecia, it's time to find a reliable solution for your hair loss. Contact your doctor today, and let's start the best treatment for you. The sooner you start, the better the results.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.