A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has shown that the drug Spironolactone could be effective in the treatment of female pattern hair loss, especially among those patients who appeared to have an excess of the male hormone androgen.
Female pattern hair loss
Like male pattern baldness, the exact reason for the occurrence of female pattern hair loss is not known, but there is thought to be a genetic link, as it does tend to be more common amongst women with a family history of the problem.
The areas of thinning hair are different from those that occur in male pattern baldness, as the front hairline usually remains intact, whilst thinning occurs at the parting of the hair, spreading out across the crown. Female pattern hair loss also does not usually result in total baldness, as male pattern baldness sometimes does.
One factor that is thought to play a part in female pattern baldness is hormonal changes, including hyperandrogenism – an excess of the male hormone androgen, which can also result in other physiological problems such as acne and hirsutism.
The study, carried out by a team from the University of California, looked into the effectiveness of spironolactone therapy in women with female-pattern baldness. The team carried out a retrospective study of 166 patients as well as a survey study of 64 women and looked at a number of additional factors, including thyroid problems and presence of acne or hirsutism.
In the retrospective study, none of the 19 patients who took spironolactone reported worse thinning, whilst in the survey study, 30% of the 20 patients on spironolactone reported an improvement in thickness, with 45% reporting no change and 15% worse thinning.
The survey study showed that patients with acne or hirsutism – both signs of hyperandrogenism – had a significantly better response to spironolactone.
Whilst this might not sound very positive, according to the study authors if the results from the two studies are combined, 74.3% of patients using spironolactone reported stabilisation or improvement of female pattern baldness.
Currently, the only other treatment available for female pattern hair loss is minoxidil, a topical scalp treatment which is effective in around 25% of women, but must be used for a long time as hair loss will start again once you stop using the medication.