Propecia as a Hair Loss Treatment

Male pattern baldness can be very distressing, and many men feel desperate to find a solution for their thinning hair. While many of the forms of hair loss treatment that you see advertised do not work, some actually do.

Propecia, or finasteride, is a prescription medication that has been shown to help prevent hair loss and promote the growth of new hair in men who have male pattern baldness.

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How Propecia Works as a Hair Loss Treatment

Finasteride was originally developed to treat enlarged prostate glands in men. When the original form of finasteride, marketed as Proscar, was being tested in clinical trials, researchers found that men taking the Proscar were experiencing an unexpected side effect: hair growth. So the manufacturer of Proscar went on to develop Propecia, which is a lower dose of finasteride that works as a hair loss treatment.

Propecia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 to treat male pattern baldness. It works by blocking an enzyme that is needed to produce a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Men who experience male pattern baldness tend to have higher levels of DHT than men who do not have baldness. DHT is thought to cause hair follicles to shrink, which over time leads to baldness.

It generally takes about three months of using Propecia before you see its effects. Your doctor will want to evaluate your hair loss and growth from time to time to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment. If you stop taking Propecia, you can expect any hair you have gained to fall out within a year, and your hair loss to progress.

Pros and Cons of Propecia as a Hair Loss Treatment

Talk to you doctor to find out if Propecia might help slow or reverse your hair loss. When deciding whether to take Propecia, it is important to weight the pros and cons of this hair loss treatment for your individual situation.

The potential benefits of Propecia include:

  • Simplicity. There is no fuss involved with using Propecia. The medication comes in the form of a tablet that you take once a day.
  • Effectiveness. In men taking Propecia daily, DHT levels are reduced by as much as 60 percent. Most men who take Propecia (86 percent) experience a slowing of hair loss, and almost two- thirds see a substantial regrowth of hair.

The potential drawbacks of using Propecia include:

  • Side effects. Adverse effects in men taking Propecia are rare, but they sometimes occur. Decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and decreased ejaculate volume are among the potential side effects of Propecia. However, keep in mind that each of these side effects occurs in less than 2 percent of men taking Propecia.
  • PSA level changes. Men taking Propecia may have decreased levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is measured as part of prostate cancer screening. Make sure that your doctor knows that you are taking Propecia, so he can carefully evaluate your PSA levels.
  • Cost. The cost of Propecia varies, depending on the pharmacy you use. In general, the average retail price of Propecia is about $220 for a 90-day supply, but shop around to find the best deal. You may also want to enroll in the Propecia Persistence Program to receive special discounts from the manufacturer.

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Who Should and Shouldn't Take Propecia?

Propecia is approved for use in adult males who are experiencing signs of male pattern baldness. This medication has been shown to be safe and effective in men between the ages of 18 and 41 years, and it is thought to also be safe for use in older men.

However, Propecia has not been studied in boys younger than 18 years of age, and it is not effective in women who are experiencing hair loss. And a note of caution: Propecia can cause harm to a male fetus, so women who are pregnant or who could be pregnant should avoid handling broken or crushed Propecia pills, as skin absorption of even a small amount of drug may cause harm. Also, if you have liver problems, you should talk with your doctor about the risks of using Propecia, since it is metabolized in your liver.

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