Alopecia androgenetica in women L64.-

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 18.01.2022

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Alopecia androgenetic; alopecia oleosa; alopecia seborrhoica; Androgenetic alopecia in women; Androgenetic Effluvium; Balding female; Calvities hippocratica; Effluvium androgenetic; Female balding; Female pattern alopecia

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The emergence of the genetically determined characteristic pattern of the hair coat in women realized by androgens. Frequently accompanying seborrhoea (Alopecia oleosa, Alopecia seborrhoica). In contrast to alopecia androgenetica in men, alopecia androgenetica in women is considered pathological.

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Prevalence among European women (all age groups): About 20%.

Incidence in European women after the age of 65: Up to 75%.

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Causes include increased androgen production (see also Adrenogenital syndrome, congenital; PCOS), ingestion of androgens or anabolic steroids, as well as increased sensitivity of the testosterone receptors on the hair follicle. Furthermore, hyperprolactinaemia, shifting of the testosterone-estrogen quotient in favour of testosterone (see also Alopecia androgenetica in men) are discussed. Patients with breast cancer who have to take aromatase inhibitors (letrozole, anastrozole, Exemestan, tamoxifen) have a certain risk of developing male type hair loss (mostly prominent decrease in the frontotemporal area). This hair loss is due to an inhibition of the endocrine receptors. The result is an increase in the level of dihydrotestosterone, which can lead to androgenetic alopecia. (Freites-Martinez A et al. 2018).

Clinical features
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A distinction is made between a female and a male alopecia pattern:

  • Female (androgenetic) alopecia pattern: Diffuse hair thinning, beginning between the ages of 20 and 40, especially in the parietal region in varying degrees with persistent frontal hairline. No significant dandruff formation; no or only insignificant itching. According to the androgenetic alopecia of the man, there are 4 stages:
    • Stage 0: Normal hair growth.
    • Stage I: Beginning hair thinning in the parting area; only visible when the hair is parted; frontal hairline of 1-3 cm width already visible. Hair plucking test positive.
    • Stage II: Prominent, visible thinning of hair in the parting area. Frontal hairline of 1-3 cm width clearly marked.
    • Stage III (rare): Pronounced baldness in the frontoparietal region, the frontal hairline remains.
  • Male alopecia pattern (rather rare in women): Baldness corresponding to alopecia androgenetica in men with receding of the forehead-hairline; especially in women during or immediately after menopause. In case of additional signs of virilization a subtle hormone analysis should be performed. Staging see below. Alopecia androgenetica in men.

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Regressive transformation of terminal hair follicles to miniature follicles.

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  • Clinic with typical alopecia pattern, medical history (increased effluvium). Determination of effluvium activity with clinical depilation test.
  • Trichogram: Detection of the telogenic effluvium.
  • Endocrinological clarification:
    • Exclusion of hyperandrogenemia (with hirsutism, seborrhoea, acne). Hormone analysis: On the 2nd-5th day of the cycle: testosterone, DHEAS, estrogen, prolactin, LH, FSH).
    • Exclusion of hyperprolactinaemia (see prolactin below) which may also be induced by medication (neuroleptics, psychotropic drugs, etc.).
  • Hair calendar: Weekly exact counting of the hairs lost during hair washing; up to 100 are acceptable.
  • Additionally: Histology, blood count, blood sugar, antinuclear antibodies, thyroid antibodies, zinc and iron in serum, ferritin.

Differential diagnosis
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  • Drug-induced alopecia ( Alopecia medicamentosa): (diffuse, acute anagenic effluvium; the connection with the therapy being used is usually detectable).
  • Pityriasis amiantacea: (greasy scales covering the scalp; hair can be pulled out in clumps).
  • Psoriasis capitis: (here, it is less the plaque-like psoriasis capitis but the diffuse so-called seborrhoid psoriasis capitis that is responsible. Mostly clear itching, fine silvery scales of the scalp).
  • Alopecia, postmenopausal, frontal, fibrosing (Kossard): (frontal linear alopecia; at the border hairs perifollicular erythema; usually evidence of keratosis follicularis).
  • Alopecia specifica diffusa: (diffuse, small-spotted alopecia; no itching; alopecia is usually detected by chance; serological clarification is required).
  • Effluvium in systemic diseases (infectious diseases, collagenoses, lymphomas, tumours of different genesis): the connection with the respective basic disease is demonstrable.
  • Anagenes (dystrophic) effluvium (anagen effluvium): during periods of physical stress, fever periods.
  • Alopecia areata diffusa: (diffuse anagen effluvium; no local preference; hair plucking test is positive).
Effluvium, chronic telogenes: permanent, diffuse hair loss that lasts for years, deteriorates in phases, with loss of 100-200 hairs/day. No evidence of endogenous or exogenous causes (exclusion diagnosis). Does not lead to visible baldness, telogen switch-off, premature (immediate telogen release, so-called "shedding" e.g. with minoxidil therapy). Clear and sudden hair loss in connection with the therapy.
  • Acute telogen effluvium: (febrile diseases, injuries, severe surgery, crash diets, emotional stress)
  • Chronic telogen effluvium in endogenous disorders: (iron deficiency, zinc deficiency, nutritive disorders, thyroid diseases; hyperprolactinaemia).

General therapy
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Local blood circulation stimulating measures, e.g. scalp massage and external therapy.

Soft lasers that work with long-wave red light can also stimulate hair growth.

External therapy
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  • Local application of Minoxidil in a 2% solution (Regaine women 2% solution, 2x/day ). If necessary, Regaine 5% (1x/day). Note: Minoxidil 5% is now also available in a foam formulation.
  • Patients with breast cancer who have to take aromatase inhibitors benefit from a 5% minoxidil local treatment when male type alopecia occurs (Freites-Martinez A et al. 2018).
  • Estrogen-containing tinctures for the scalp, such as 17-alpha estradiol (e.g. R087), alfatradiol (e.g. Ell-Cranell alpha). If necessary, short-term estradiol and glucocorticoids, topical (e.g. Crinohermal fem), salicylic acid (e.g. Alpicort F) and anti-inflammatory or hyperemic additives. The effectiveness is controversial. Subjective improvements have been reported from external applications of organ extracts (e.g. Thymuskin Hair Treatment Shampoo).
  • Supporting: Treatment of accompanying dandruff and seborrhea with degreasing shampoos (e.g. Stieproxal, Stieprox, Preval Shampoo, Ket Dandruff Shampoo) The use of shampoos containing tar is also recommended (e.g. Tarmed® Shampoo).
  • Experimental: The local therapeutic approach with a 0.1% melatonin solution is currently considered experimental.
  • Experimental: Thymuskin is said to have shown a beneficial effect on hair growth in small study cohorts.

Internal therapy
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  • Antiandrogens in collaboration with the gynaecologist. The contraindications of such a therapy must be taken into account in particular: pregnancy, liver tumours, previous thromboembolic processes, smokers > 35 years, cardiovascular diseases, lipid metabolism diseases, severe liver metabolism disorders, severe obesity.
  • Mild to moderate alopecia: premenopausal: combination preparation with ethinylestradiol and cyproterone acetate (e.g. Diane 35, day 1-21, 7 days break) or ethinylestradiol and chloromadinone acetate (e.g. neo-unomine 1 tbl. day 1-22, 6 days break). Additionally, if necessary, cyproterone acetate (e.g. Androcur 10) 5-10 mg/day on day 1-15.
  • Severe alopecia: premenopausal: ethinylestradiol and cyproterone acetate (e.g. Diane 35) in combination with cyproterone acetate (e.g. Androcur) 50 mg/day on days 1-10. In case of therapy failure Diane 35 and additionally cyproterone acetate depot (e.g. Androcur) 300 mg i.m. once a month on the 4th to 7th day of the cycle. Alternative preparations to the cyproterone acetate in Diane 35 are dienogest (Valette) or drospirenone (Yasmin).
  • Perimenopausal (after hysterectomy) and 4 years after menopause: Cyproterone acetate (e.g. Androcur) 25-100 mg/day continuous.
  • Supportive therapy: Biotin (vitamin H), e.g. Bio-H-Tin improves hair and nail quality and reduces effluvium, 1 time per day 1 tbl. p.o. for at least 6-8 weeks. If necessary also mixed preparations such as Pantovigar 3 times/day 1 Kps. over 3-6 months. The effectiveness of these preparations is controversially discussed.
  • In the case of additional iron or zinc deficiency, corresponding substitution: e.g. zinc orotate 20 mg once/day; ferro sanol duodenal once/day 100 mg p.o.
  • In experimental applications, approaches with finasteride ( off-label use!) are still being examined.

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  • Circulation-enhancing measures such as scalp massage or use of the plum blossom hammer have reduced the effluvium in individual cases.
  • Effective in smaller studies: Cimicifuga racemosa (CiMi Hair Tonic) locally for 6-12 months.
  • Sabalis serrulatae fructus extracts of the saw palmetto fruit (Serenoa repens) are alternative therapies that can be used in postmenopausal androgenetic alopecia.
  • Currently, further studies in androgenetic alopecia (male) with extracts of green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), extracts from fruits of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) as well as Citrullus colocynthis and Cuscuta reflexa are expected (Rondanelli M et al. 2016).

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  1. Birch MP et al (2002) Female pattern hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol 27: 383-388
  2. Birch MP et al (2001) Hair density, hair diameter and the prevalence of female pattern hair loss. Br J Dermatol 144: 297-304
  3. Borrelli F et al (2003) Pharmacological effects of Cimicifuga racemosa. Life Sci 73: 1215-1229
  4. Borrelli F et al (2002) Cimicifuga racemosa: a systematic review of its clinical efficacy. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 58: 235-241.
  5. Fischer TW (2004) Melatonin increases anagen hair rate in women with androgenetic alopecia or diffuse alopecia: results of a pilot randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol 150: 341-345.
  6. Freites-Martinez A et al (2018) Endocrine Therapy-Induced Alopecia in Patients With Breast Cancer.
    JAMA Dermatol 154:670-675.
  7. Olsen EA (2001) Female pattern hair loss. J Am Acad Dermatol 45: S70-80Rondanelli M et al. (2016) A bibliometric study of scientific literature in Scopus on botanicals for treatment of androgenetic alopecia. J Cosmet Dermatol 15:120-130.
  8. Thai KE, Sinclaur RD (2002) Finasteride for female androgenetic alopecia. Br J Dermatol 147: 812-813.
  9. Vierhapper H et al (2003) Production rates of testosterone and of dihydrotestosterone in female pattern hair loss. Metabolism 52: 927-929
  10. Leavitt M et al. (2009) HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia: A randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled, multicentre trial. Clin Drug Investig. 29:283-292.


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Last updated on: 18.01.2022