Treatment options for male pattern baldness often take one of two forms. The treatment either seeks to encourage hair growth or replace lost hair, as is the case with a hair transplant. Another option is to have the treatment focus on stopping the cause of the baldness, which is the case with the medication Propecia, or finasteride.
Male pattern baldness is caused by the hormone DHT. Propecia works by blocking the enzyme responsible for creating the hormone, putting an end to hair loss problems for a number of men.
While it might seem to offer a miracle solution, there are a number of issues to consider before you start taking the medication. It doesn’t work for everyone and can cause some unenjoyable side effects.
The Story of Propecia
Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, wasn’t originally marketed as an anti-hair loss drug. Instead, it began back in 1997 as a medication to treat enlarged prostate glands. Men taking the medication for their prostate were given a dose of 5 mg.
During the course of treatment, doctors soon discovered that finasteride had a potentially useful side effect. Men who took it also started to regrow hair. The company that marketed finasteride were soon able to market it as a drug to treat male pattern baldness, at a dose of 1 mg. The medicine works by blocking 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT.
Finasteride for hair loss is taken in the form of a once-daily pill. As with other medicines for hair loss, you need to continue to take Propecia to continue to see the results from it. If you stop taking it, your hair loss will most likely return.
According to the clinical study performed using Propecia, the majority of men taking it either saw regrowth of their hair or had their hair loss stop. Forty-eight percent saw regrowth and 42 percent had no additional hair loss. Just 28 out of the 279 men in the study who were taking Propecia continued to lose hair.
The results from the medication aren’t instant. As with a hair transplant, you’ll need to give your new hair time to grow. It may take up to a year before you see any visible hair growth. Keep in mind that finasteride might not help you regain all of your lost hair.
Potential Side Effects
Side effects are to be expected from many medications, and finasteride is no exception. It’s the nature of the side effects caused by Propecia that might give some men pause. A small percentage, less than 2 percent, of men in the study, experienced sexual side effects while taking the medication, including a loss of libido.
While the official literature states that discontinuing use of the medication reverses the side effects, there have been stories from some men that they continued after the drug was stopped. The majority of men experienced the side effects when they started the medication, but some developed them after some time on it. Just under 60 percent of men with sexual side effects remained on the medication and saw their side effects fade.
Other side effects from the medication included gynecomastia, or enlargement of the breast tissue, infertility and in very rare cases, male breast cancer. The drug can also affect the results of the prostate-specific antigen test, pushing down a man’s levels of PSA.
Women and Propecia
While some medications for hair loss, like minoxidil, can be used by men and women, finasteride is a male-only treatment. Women are cautioned not to take the drug and to even be careful handling the medicine, especially in the form of crushed up pills, when they are pregnant. Exposure to the medication during pregnancy can cause birth defects in male fetuses.
Propecia vs. Hair Restoration
Propecia might be the right solution for some men, as it allows them to take one pill a day and enjoy new hair growth. But, for men who prefer to avoid the potential side effects or who see no results from the medication, hair restoration surgery can be the better option. Surgery can cost more upfront, but is usually a one and done treatment. Once the transplanted hair begins to grow, it is there permanently.
To learn more about your options for treating hair loss, talk to a hair restoration specialist, such as Dr. Kyle Choe in Virginia Beach. Dr. Choe can clearly explain each option and recommend the one that is best suited to you. Call (757) 389-5850 for a consultation today.