Hair loss affects roughly 85% of men at some point during their lives, and it’s also more common in women than you may think. Losing your hair can damage your self-esteem, so most people start to look for hair growth treatments as soon as they notice the loss.
One treatment that’s often prescribed to men by doctors is finasteride — but does it help your hair grow back? Find out with Healthcare Reviews as we dive into exactly what finasteride is and how it works to potentially help you regain your hair and confidence.
What does finasteride do?
Finasteride is a medication that is used to treat male pattern baldness and an enlarged prostate gland. The medication is available as a tablet and should be taken once daily. It may take several months to see the full effects of the medication, and treatment should be continued for as long as it’s prescribed to you to maintain the results.
Finasteride is not suitable for women and may have side effects such as sexual dysfunction, breast tenderness and depression. It can also cause contra-indications during pregnancy, so women need to speak with their doctor before taking any medication like finasteride for hair loss.
How does finasteride work?
Finasteride works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a hormone that is responsible for causing hair follicles to shrink in men with male pattern baldness, leading to hair loss. By reducing levels of DHT, finasteride can help to increase hair growth and prevent further hair loss.
Finasteride inhibits the activity of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which is responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. By blocking the activity of this enzyme, finasteride reduces levels of DHT in the scalp and other areas of the body.
In addition to its effects on hair growth, finasteride can also be used to treat an enlarged prostate gland, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. In this case, it works by reducing the size of the prostate gland, which can help to relieve symptoms such as difficulty urinating.
How long does finasteride take to work?
It can take three to six months of continuous use of finasteride before you notice any improvement in hair growth. However, some men may see improvements in as little as three months.
It will all depend on the rate at which your hair grows. Generally, most men will see a growth of around half an inch per month — explaining why it takes so long for visible results.
It is important to note that finasteride is not a cure for male pattern baldness and it will need to be taken continuously to maintain the benefits. If you stop taking it, any gains made in hair growth will likely be lost within 9–12 months.
What are the side effects of finasteride?
As with all medications, there are potential side effects when taking finasteride.
Possible side effects can include but aren’t limited to:
- Erectile dysfunction — Some men may experience difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, or a decreased sex drive. This side effect may continue after stopping treatment.
- Breast tenderness and enlargement — In rare cases, men may experience breast tenderness and enlargement (gynecomastia) while taking finasteride.
- Allergic reaction — Some people may have an allergic reaction to finasteride, which can cause a rash, itching, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Depression — Finasteride has been associated with depression in some people, although it is not clear if the medication is the cause.
- Ejaculation problems — Some men may experience problems with ejaculation, such as a decrease in semen volume.
- Testicular pain — In rare cases, men may experience testicular pain while taking Finasteride.
How to reduce the side effects of finasteride?
While sometimes side effects can be unavoidable, there are some things that you can do to minimise the chance of them happening or the last effect that they have.
You need to take the medication as directed by your doctor. Do not take more or less than prescribed and do not stop taking the medication without first speaking with them. Taking too much can have negative effects on your health, and not taking enough could decrease your results.
Finasteride can interact with certain medications, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications. Taking it alongside them could increase your risk of side effects. Make sure you inform your healthcare provider of all medications you are taking beforehand to reduce this risk of side effects or complications.
You also need to monitor for any potential side effects while taking finasteride. If you experience any side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, breast tenderness or depression, speak with a medical professional.
How effective is finasteride?
Finasteride has been found to be effective in treating male pattern baldness. One study showed that after one year of treatment, 48% of men treated with finasteride had increased hair growth, while only 7% of those treated with a placebo had the same results.
However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of finasteride can vary from person to person. Some men may experience significant hair regrowth, while others may only see a slight improvement. Additionally, the benefits may not be immediately apparent, and it can take several months of regular use before any improvements are noticeable.
Overall, finasteride is an effective treatment for male pattern baldness in many men. But it’s important to speak with a doctor about the potential benefits and risks of using it and to closely monitor any side effects that may occur.
Finasteride can help you achieve the hair growth you want — but it’s not a cure. Once you stop taking it, the regrowth can potentially stop and you could start to experience hair loss again.
If you’re experiencing hair loss or other prostate-related symptoms, speak with your doctor to determine if finasteride may be a suitable treatment option for you.