Short for dihydrotestosterone, the DHT hormone is a byproduct of the major male sex hormone testosterone. However, for what it does, it’s considered a major sex hormone in its own right.
But it has somewhat of a poor reputation. Quite often, it’s considered a “bad hormone” that many people want to lower the levels of in their bodies.
That’s mainly because it plays a very significant role in the development of male pattern baldness. Additionally, an abnormality in its levels can also affect the function or formation of male sex organs and characteristics.
However, its presence is not the problem. In fact, it’s essential for normal development. When its levels get too high or too low, it can cause many serious problems. But there are ways to manage it.
What Is DHT Hormone?
DHT, meaning dihydrotestosterone, is a steroid and a type of androgen (male sex) hormone.
Essentially hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that transport information throughout the body via the bloodstream. The glands in the endocrine system secrete hormones which target specific areas of the body.
DHT is mainly produced by the liver, which is also an endocrine gland. However, it’s not directly produced as dihydrotestosterone.
It starts out as cholesterol, which is converted into testosterone. And then, with the activity of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, the testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone.
The end result of this conversion is a very potent or powerful hormone that’s considered “pure androgen.” DHT is, in fact, five times stronger than testosterone. Additionally, it has a higher affinity for androgen receptors (which are also present in the hair follicles).
While this hormone is produced in both men and women, its levels are much higher in men because of more testosterone.
What Does DHT Do?
Dihydrotestosterone starts playing an important role in your life even before you’re born.
Along with other hormones, the DHT is involved in the sexual development of male fetuses. It’s essential for the normal development of external genitalia (testis, scrotum, and penis) and prostate in males.
Later in life, from childhood to adulthood, it is responsible for other things, such as:
- Hair growth on the face and body
- Growth of male sexual organs
- Development of the prostate
Therefore, this hormone is essential for the normal development of the body.
DHT Hormone In Females
It is believed that dihydrotestosterone does not play as important a role in women as it does in men. This is even when women produce this hormone.
While the role of dihydrotestosterone in females is not exactly clear, some research suggests that its abnormality can affect women at different stages of life.
For instance, a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported that the levels of DHT hormone were higher in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Additionally, according to You and Your Hormones (by the Society of Endocrinology), fluctuations in its levels can affect hair growth, menstrual cycle, and genitalia in women.
How To Block DHT?
It’s possible to block DHT with the help of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors or dihydrotestosterone blockers.
There are only two drugs in this group, which include:
- Finasteride – Blocks the type 2 5-alpha-reductase to prevent its conversion to DHT. Research shows that finasteride can reduce serum DHT levels by almost 70%.
- Dutasteride – Blocks both type 1 and 2 5-alpha-reductase to prevent its conversion to DHT. Research shows that it can reduce serum DHT levels by more than 90%.
These drugs aren’t just used for the treatment of hair loss. It’s also used for benign prostate hyperplasia.
Both finasteride and dutasteride are FDA-approved for the treatment of BPH. However, only finasteride has FDA approval for androgenetic alopecia as well. Still, dutasteride is used off-label.
Here, you should also note that some natural plant extracts are also widely marketed as DHT-blockers (particularly in hair loss products). These include:
- Saw palmetto
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Stinging nettle
While there is some research on them, it’s not enough to make a definitive conclusion. If you’re still considering using them, make sure to consult a doctor first.
What Does A DHT Blocker Do?
A DHT blocker lowers the levels of DHT, and it does that by:
- Inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme to stop the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
- Preventing the binding of DHT to androgen receptors.
These can cause some serious side effects, however, such as:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)
- Breast tenderness
- Lower libido
- Ejaculation disorder
- Testicular pain and swelling
You should only take these drugs after talking to your doctor.
Can DHT Cause Hair Loss?
Dihydrotestosterone is mainly considered responsible for the most common type of hair loss in men and women: androgenetic alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia patients have higher levels of DHT as well as more DHT receptors and 5-alpha reductase enzymes.
Their receptors can also be more sensitive to the presence of DHT. And keep in mind that DHT already has a much stronger affinity for these receptors.
As a result, this hormone starts affecting the hair growth cycle, causing miniaturisation and permanent baldness.
Interestingly though, the same hormone promotes hair growth on the face and body.
It’s worth to keep in mind that not everyone with this hormone experience dihydrotestosterone hair loss because of it.
How Do You Stop DHT Hair Loss?
5-alpha reductase inhibitors can help stop DHT hair loss by preventing this hormone from being produced and binding to androgen receptors.
In a study published in the journal Drugs, oral finasteride was found to prevent hair loss and even promote the growth of new hair in male pattern baldness.
Typically, 1mg of this drug is to be taken on a daily basis. And you need to keep taking it to sustain the results.
Additionally, studies on dutasteride for hair loss also show promising results. A study in Dermatologic Therapy showed that oral dutasteride could help with male pattern baldness as well. However, some patients discontinued their medication due to the following side effects:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decrease in libido
- Mood disorder
But this didn’t happen in patients receiving lower doses (3 or fewer 0.5mg tablets per week).
Other than that, DHT-blocking shampoos are also available, but they’re not likely to be effective for this type of hair loss.
Low DHT Symptoms
Low DHT can have a significant impact on the sexual development of males. It can happen as a result of a 5-alpha reductase deficiency. There’s a mutation in the enzyme, which affects its ability to convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
As a result, even before a child is born, the development of their sexual organs is affected. And when they are born, their genitalia can resemble those of females. It can also appear “ambiguous.” Often, children with 5-alpha reductase deficiency are raised as females.
Therefore, this condition can go undetected until puberty when menstruation doesn’t happen and male secondary sex characteristics begin to emerge (deeper voice, more muscle mass, etc.).
Other signs and symptoms of this condition can include:
- Undescended testes
- Bifid scrotum
- Less hair growth on the face and body
- Small prostate
- Presence of a blind vaginal pouch
Moreover, androgen deficiency, resulting from problems in the endocrine system or male gonads, can also lower the levels of DHT in the body. Among other things, this can cause sexual problems, abnormal fat distribution, and muscle and bone problems.
How To Increase DHT
To increase DHT in people with low levels of DHT, there are different treatment options available.
In the case of 5-alpha reductase deficiency, surgery and hormones gels or injections can help in treatment or management.
For androgen deficiency, testosterone replacement therapy might be recommended to you by your doctor.
Some researchers have also investigated foods that increase DHT (indirectly through testosterone). But before making any dietary changes, it’s better to discuss this with your doctor.
High DHT Symptoms
If you’re wondering what causes DHT to increase, it can happen due to different health conditions.
According to research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, DHT and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) have been linked to each other.
And when DHT levels are lowered with the help of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, it helps with BPH symptoms, which can include:
- Frequent urination
- Urgent need to urinate
- Weak urine stream
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder
- Trouble starting urination
Other than BPH, the answer to what causes high DHT in males can be prostate cancer.
High levels of DHT have also been linked to other problems like:
- Pattern baldness
The symptoms can vary between males and females.
How To Reduce DHT
If you have any symptoms of high levels of DHT in your body, you should consult a medical professional. They’ll prepare your treatment plan according to your underlying problem.
For instance, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors have been prescribed for the treatment of BPH.
If it’s prostate cancer, treatment options can include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy cryotherapy, HIFU, immunotherapy or hormone therapy.
Therefore, the answer to how to lower DHT can vary depending on the condition you’re suffering from.
DHT vs Testosterone: What’s The Difference?
Dihydrotestosterone is not the same as testosterone. In fact, DHT is a product oftestosterone. That’s the main difference between the two.
Additionally, the molecules also act quite differently. As mentioned above, DHT has a stronger affinity for androgen receptors than testosterone.
It’s also 5 times stronger than the latter, even though it’s just 10% of the circulating testosterone levels.
Other than that, dihydrotestosterone is also considered a “pure androgen.” That’s because, unlike testosterone, it does not convert into the hormone oestrogen.
While DHT gets a lot of bad rap, it’s needed by your body to grow and develop normally. If its levels are too high or too low, it can cause a host of problems that mainly affect the sexual organs.
Additionally, its presence has also been associated with permanent hair loss. While DHT blockers can help with that, the side effects can be a deterrent in their intake.
There are other non-surgical treatments you can consider, such as laser or PRP. You can also consider an FUE hair transplant (follicular unit extraction) or a FUT hair transplant (follicular unit transplant).
To save costs, you can consider getting a hair transplant in Turkey. Our surgeons can prepare a treatment plan for you based on your goals and expectations.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Hassan Soueid
What happens when DHT levels are high?
High DHT levels can negatively affect different parts of the body, such as the sex organs and hair follicles.
Can you regrow hair loss from DHT?
DHT blockers can help regrow hair loss due to dihydrotestosterone. It also stops the progression of further hair loss.
What does DHT do to your body?
DHT is essential for sexual differentiation and normal development of the body, particularly in males.
Does dihydrotestosterone cause hair loss?
Dihydrotestosterone is the major cause of hair loss in androgenetic alopecia. It can lead to permanent miniaturisation of the follicles.