For men who suffer with hair loss, Finasteride typically makes the short list of treatment options that is both widely studied and highly recommended. Finasteride is most commonly known by the brand name Propecia®, and it is a hair loss pill that is taken orally to combat the phenomenon known as androgenic alopecia, or pattern baldness.
If you are considering Finasteride as a hair loss treatment, it is important to realize two things. First, like most prescription medications, Finasteride may cause side effects. In recent years, the most widely publicized side effect has been erectile dysfunction, though more data is needed to clarify both the duration and prevalence.
Second, men who do not want to take a prescription medication to treat hair loss have 3 viable alternatives that are proven to be effective. Those include minoxidil (Rogaine®), hair transplant surgery, and low level laser therapy. Only a hair loss professional can help you determine the best course of treatment, all 3 of which are explored in greater detail below.
Understanding the Side Effects of Finasteride
Men might be surprised to learn that Finasteride was not always a hair loss medication. In 1992, the FDA first approved the drug to treat enlarged prostate. Later, it became understood that Finasteride blocks an enzyme that helps convert testosterone to DHT, an androgen that has historically been correlated with pattern baldness. By inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT, Finasteride gives hair follicles a fighting chance at maintaining a healthy, natural hair growth cycle. In turn, thinning and shedding subsides, and some men even notice hair begin to grow anew.
However, DHT is also an important androgen for male sex organs. Researchers theorize that Finasteride’s impact on DHT is ultimately what may cause sexual side effects— though a causal link has not yet been determined.
FDA: Prescribers and Patients Need to Be Aware
Since 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required Merck, the manufacturer of Propecia®, to label the medication with language that warns of possible sexual side effects. Those include erectile dysfunction, decrease in sperm motility, and other disorders that impair sexual activity. Despite warning labels, the FDA encourages physicians who prescribe the medication to also make clear to patients all the possible risks associated with the hair loss pill.
A causal link has not yet been determined, however, leading many patients wondering whether Finasteride is a safe medication to use. Of the 34 clinical trials that have been conducted, none have provided “adequate” information on the severity and frequency of sexual side effects, according to Dr. Steven Belknap, researcher assistant professor at Northwestern University (i). However, lack of information does not necessarily imply an attempt to hide poor results. Instead, Dr. Belknap believes it’s more likely a function of inadequate information. In the end, more studies will only improve knowledge and awareness of side effects.
Alternatives to Finasteride
If the thought of sexual side effects makes you uneasy, there are 3 additional ways to pursue a natural head of hair. Some are surgical while others are minimally invasive. Browse the options below, and visit our main website for additional information on each procedure.
Minoxidil – Non-surgical Procedure
Minoxidil, better known by the brand name Rogaine®, is a topical foam that is applied to the scalp twice daily. Millions of men and women choose this option for its ease of use and proven ability to stop hair loss.
Hair Transplant – Surgical Procedure
Hair transplant involves carefully extracting donor hair from one area of the scalp and moving it to the thinning or balding area. Primary methods of hair transplant include strip donor transplant, follicular unit extraction, and new robotic FUE procedures. For more information, visit our page on hair transplant surgery procedures.
Low Level Laser Therapy – Non-invasive Procedure
Phototherapy has been shown to help jump-start hair follicles that have gone dormant— a common phenomenon that causes thinning, shedding, and balding. Low level lasers are designed to induce phototherapy within the scalp, rejuvenating hair follicles to produce thicker and fuller hair. Visit the following page to learn more about low level laser therapy for hair loss.
Learn More About Hair Restoration in Miami
To learn more about surgical and non-surgical hair restoration options, contact our Institute online or call our clinic directly at 305-925-0222.