Does Propecia Work?

By age 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some hair loss. By age 50, that number rises to 85% of men. With Propecia being the top medication used to treat male hair loss we must ask, does Propecia live up to the hype?

What Is Male Pattern Hair Loss?

Male pattern baldness is a type of hair loss that shows up as a receding hairline, thinning at the crown or both. This type of hair loss is due to your genetics and mainly because your body is becoming overly sensitive to androgen hormones, also known as testosterone. Some men begin in their 20s and others will start rapidly losing hair in their 40s & 50s. Not all hair loss is the same. Some people lose hair from stress or have another illness, like alopecia. Any kind of hair loss translates into a need to visit your general practitioner to determine the cause. The earlier you can determine the cause, the quicker you can find a resolution. In many cases of pattern hair loss, Propecia is what is prescribed to slow down hair loss and promote regrowth.

What Is Propecia?

Propecia is the current treatment for male pattern baldness and is available by prescription only. It comes in a tablet you take orally and contains the steroid Finasteride. This steroid slows down the hyperactive effects of the DHT (dihydrotestosterone) hormone which will slow or stop the hair loss. In some cases, it can reverse the effect and promote hair growth. It has an incredibly high success rate and there is no other prescription that can do what Propecia does.

Common Side Effects

As with all treatments, there are some common side effects from using Propecia. It is important that you talk about these side effects, and any medicines you are currently taking, with your doctor.

  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Inability to orgasm
  • Abnormal ejaculation
  • Impotence
  • Swelling of hands, feet or breasts
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Weakness
  • Skin rash
  • Runny nose

While some of these side effects sound scary, it is a result of changing your hormone makeup. There are countless online patient reviews that share horror stories about the effects but we advise taking those reviews with a grain of salt. In all case studies that have been conducted, only 2% of patients suffered a side effect. Many of the 2% also stated that side effects diminished with long time use.

Does It Really Work?

The short answer is an astounding yes! Short-term and long-term studies have been increasingly successful with efficacy and shed light on the issue of side effects. There was a five-year study and a 10-year study to learn more about the effects of long-term use of the drug. What they have learned is exciting and supports efficacy claims made by the manufacturer.

At the end of five years:

  • 65% of patients on Propecia, note the placebo improved or maintained their hair follicle counts compared to the follicle counts at the beginning of the study.
  • 90% of the men showed no further visible hair loss.
  • 77% of the men had increased scalp hair.

After 10 years:

  • Only 14% of men experienced worsening situations with their hair loss.
  • 86% benefited from the treatment and efficacy did not diminish.
  • 48% of men saw improvement over time.

Combine these stats with a 2% risk of side effects and this a drug that can certainly stop male pattern baldness and has promoted regrowth in a large number of patients.

Are There Other Uses?

Currently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) only approves Propecia for male pattern hair loss. The steroid, Finasteride, has been found to be a helpful tool in the fight against prostate cancer. However, some studies suggest that the steroid has the capability to also hide other cancers. Nothing could be worse than having a drug hide the fact that you have aggressive cancer in another area of the body. It should be noted that in many studies, there is a noticeable decrease in men suffering from prostate cancer. The FDA has been slow to approve it for prostate prevention because of the concerns regarding hiding other cancers. Studies continue and we hope that we can find multiple uses for Propecia to combat other male health concerns.

What About Women and Hair Loss?

Women and their hair loss is a different situation than the men. Most notably, women with hair loss does not have anything to do with genetics. Women have the same hormone that causes male pattern baldness but it rarely causes the hair loss. Although the causes are unknown, there are some signs to look for if a woman is dealing with pattern baldness.

  • Under/overactive thyroid
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Psychological and/or emotional stress
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Medications.

Since women have an entirely different experience, what can they take to tackle their problem? Fortunately, there are several options!

  • Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) is the only FDA approved prescription topical cream for women.
  • Iron supplements if the ferritin test proves a severe lack of iron.
  • Birth control pills if tests prove that the hair loss is due to excessive amounts of testosterone and hair loss mimics male pattern baldness.
  • Lower stress levels with the assistance of therapy and/or mediations.

Since there is some correlation with certain health issues that can cause the hair loss in women, seeing a doctor regularly can discover many of these maladies early on. By catching them early, you could reduce the chance of hair loss in the future.

Can You Prevent Male Pattern Hair Loss?

So far, there is no preventative action that can be taken to avoid male pattern hair loss. You can take action to reduce your unhealthy stress levels to make an attempt to put it off for as long as possible. You should also see your doctor regularly and talk about any concerns you have. If you have a family history of hair loss, it becomes especially important to make your doctor aware and keep an eye on your hormone levels. Many men begin losing in their 20s and if you begin treatments then, you can likely keep most of your hair on into your later years.