Propecia® is its brand name. Finasteride is the generic name and it is a medication widely used for the treatment and prevention of hair loss. But how do you, as a patient, decide whether to take it or not? This blog will help you in your decision making process.
Male Hair Loss
Finasteride is primarily a medication for male pattern hair loss. It is not a commonly used medication in females- mainly because there hasn’t been any consistent beneficial effects. The use of finasteride in females may only be limited to conditions like hirsuitism and polycystic ovary syndrome (1).
For the majority of males, the main cause of hair loss occurs in a predictable pattern called male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness is a type of alopecia caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), (2). DHT is a hormone converted from testosterone and it works in your scalp to thin your hair and make it fall out. In most men it is the primary driver for hair thinning and hair loss.
By stopping the action of DHT at hair follicles, we can stop and reverse the hair loss process. This is how Finasteride works. But should you take it?
Firstly- Finasteride is a medication that should be prescribed by your Doctor. Some patients buy it online- at The Treatment Rooms, London we recommend you see a hair loss specialist. The main reasons for this are:
- Sometimes Finasteride is NOT the correct medication for you as you might be suffering another type of hair loss
- You should therefore have a hair loss DIAGNOSIS by a specialist before deciding on the best treatment for you
- Finasteride, like all medications, has SIDE EFFECTS that need to be monitored for
- You need to check how EFFECTIVE finasteride is- so having an objective analysis of your hair growth whilst on the medication is important. This should be done by a hair loss specialist
- If you are planning on having CHILDREN then Finasteride should be stopped before & during pregnancy as well as when your partner is breast feeding. This requires meticulous planning on behalf of you and your hair loss Doctor to make sure you limit hair loss during the time when you are not taking the medication
Does Finasteride Work?
At a dose of 1mg taken once a day, Finasteride has been shown to reduce the levels of DHT in the scalp by 60%. In clinical trials this has had the following effects:
- Stops hair loss in 86% of males
- 65% of men report a significant increase in hair growth
These positive effects can be see in the first year or two when starting treatment. Interestingly, for those who haven’t noticed a change after a year of taking the medication, you should still continue it. Hair growth in clincial trials have been shown to improve even in those with no or little change after 1 year, with great results in growth after 5 years (2).
What are the side effects of Finasteride?
As with all medications there are of course some side effects of Finasteride (3). The two main side effects you ought to know about are:
- Low mood
- Sexual Dysfunction (2.1-3.8% of males)
For patients who do unfortunately suffer from these side effects- rest assured most patients recover well if they stop the medication. Interestingly, some patients recover despite continuing the medication- this suggests that the medication did not cause the side effect in the first place.
If you are worried about these side effects it is important you discuss them with your hair loss doctor as there are other treatment options available to you. This includes the option of taking the medication on alternate days.
When should you take finasteride?
Finasteride is a medication you usually take once a day. The decision to start finasteride really depends on you. If you are concerned about your hair loss and you have been diagnosed with androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) then finasteride is a medication that can prevent further hair loss and help you grow thicker hair.
If you are planning on having a family soon then Finasteride might not be the medication you choose to have. Other treatment options like Minoxidil could be your first line treatment. After you have finished having children you can then think about adding in or swapping to Finasteride.
Some patients may also benefit from having Finasteride to stabilise their existing hair loss before choosing to have a hair transplant. By stopping the progression of hair loss and helping to thicken hair in previously thin areas many patients are able to achieve a very good aesthetic outcome. If they then wanted to have a hair transplant the total number of grafts required for a desirable outcome is less. Overall, the combination of finasteride and a hair transplant to reverse and treat hair loss is the most effective treatment.
Want to know more?
If you would like to find out more about Finasteride then please don’t hesitate to contact our hair loss specialists at The Treatment Rooms London. Our Surgeons and Doctors are happy to take you through a full consultation around hair loss, including a discussion about Finasteride. Feel free to book your consultation today.