‘What can I do about my hair loss?’- A question that gets asked all too often.
In reality, hair loss in both men and women is a common condition that some people know very little about and is often overlooked. The clinical term for this type of hair loss is ‘Alopecia’, and specifically ‘androgenic alopecia’ which generally affects men more than women, as it is associated with high levels of male androgenic hormone.
Finasteride is a drug currently available on prescription from your doctor or GP, and is effective at reducing the rate of hair loss in men, a condition also known as ‘male pattern baldness’.
This blog provides some generalised information on Finasteride, but is only intended as a basic guidance, and in no way replaces personal advice from a healthcare professional. If you have any specific questions on alopecia or the use of Finasteride, be sure to ask a doctor or a pharmacist who can offer more detailed advice more suited to your own circumstances.
Finasteride is a drug used both to treat androgenetic alopecia and benign prostatic hyperplasia, and is commonly available under various brand names including: Propecia and Proscar. However, in these products, the main active ingredient remains the same.
Many clinical studies have shown Finasteride to be effective, and generally a very safe treatment with a relatively low side effect profile. Nevertheless a valid prescription is still required, and should be initiated by a qualified doctor or hair-loss consultant who can advise you on the best treatment.
As stated earlier, the common uses of Finasteride include the treatment of androgenetic alopecia and benign prostatic hyperplasia (men with an enlarged prostate).
Finasteride inhibits 5-alpha reductase. This is an enzyme in the body that is responsible for converting the male sex hormone testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is one of the biologically active forms of testosterone and ensures the development of masculine characteristics (beard growth, body hair, external gender, prostate development) in the male organism. When 5-alpha reductase is inhibited by Finasteride, less biologically active testosterone is produced.
High DHT levels are believed to be one of the various causes of prostate enlargement. Finasteride acts by reducing DHT levels in the body, and as a result the prostate experiences a weaker growth stimulus from DHT.
It is believed that with genetic hair loss, DHT within the hair follicles is responsible for slowing down hair growth. This is where Finasteride’s mode of action in hair loss treatment lies – it inhibits DHT formation, which means that the hair growth-inhibiting effect of DHT is eliminated. As a result, hair can grow better and faster.
Finasteride helps stop hair loss by acting on the progression of androgenic alopecia. Besides stopping hair loss, it prevents miniaturisation and helps to improve the overall condition of your hair. It is important to note that this treatment will not replace or regrow hair that has already been shed, but it will help maintain hair follicles already on the scalp and the body.
Its effects are noticeable after about six months, and you must continue the treatment continuously. You will only notice the benefits of Finasteride if you continue to follow the treatment advice by your doctor or consultant, for the minimum recommended duration. The full benefits of the treatment may not be seen if the course is interrupted or stopped suddenly.
Knowing that this is an effective treatment, many people think that Finasteride is the ultimate solution for alopecia. This is not the case. The use of Finasteride will help you slow the progression of androgenetic alopecia, but this is not the only option to treat hair loss. A hair-loss specialist must individually assess and tell you how best to manage your own hair loss.
In the studies of mild to moderate hair loss in men aged 18-41, Finasteride slowed hair loss and improved hair growth in most men. Hair growth improved 48% after one year and 66% after two years.
The regular and long-term use of Finasteride is therefore essential for the success of the treatment. In comparison, hair loss progressed in the group of men who took placebo. Finasteride has also been shown to be effective for hair loss in the 41-60 year age group.
For hair loss, the recommended dose is 1mg a day. It can be taken for several months or years, depending on your doctor’s recommendation and the progress of your condition.
The specialist will tell you how to use Finasteride correctly. Remember that you should always tell your consultant about all current medication you are taking, including topical creams and lotions, so they can advise you appropriately before and after the intervention to see if you should stop using any of them. In the higher dosage of 5 mg, it is used for the treatment of benign prostate enlargement.
Finasteride may take three to four months to start showing results, and it may take up to a year to get maximum results. You should monitor several changes in your body to know whether it’s working. The first common change is reduced hair loss, which happens between the first three to six months. If you fail to see results after 12 months, chances of getting better results with further treatment are very minimal.
Finasteride is safe if taken for an extended period. Most people use it for months, even years, without reporting any problem. However, you should be wary of the few side effects the drug poses.
Many people know what Finasteride is and its side effects. This problem worries many people who hesitate to try it for this very reason, but the truth is that side effects only appear in around 3% of cases.
The main side effect of Finasteride is that it can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) and breast cancer in men, as well as affect libido. They will stop happening if we stop treatment, which is common with higher doses. Men should therefore not take Finasteride if they are trying to conceive.
Women should not take Finasteride. During pregnancy, there is a risk of malformation of the external genital organs for the growing embryo due to Finasteride. Since the active ingredient can also be absorbed through the skin, pregnant women should not come into contact with tablets or crush them. It is particularly important for men to be cautious if they are using Finasteride in the same household as pregnant women. Always consult a medical expert before or when using Finasteride.
Taking Finasteride has been linked to feelings of tiredness, however it is important to know as with all side effects, this does not necessarily occur in everyone treated with Finasteride. Multiple studies have reported fatigue, restlessness, and lethargy in males who used Finasteride as some of the physical adverse effects.
Finasteride can be discontinued at any time. If Finasteride is stopped abruptly before the recommended duration, the hair recovered from the treatment will likely fall out within a year. The hair growth improved by Finasteride will also decrease as the drug only works during the duration of the intake.