Finasteride, better known under its brand name Propecia, is an orally administered medication often used to treat male-pattern baldness. It is the only hair loss medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
How Finasteride Works to stop hair loss
Finasteride actually works at a molecular level to inhibit the actions of a form of testosterone known as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT has a particularly strong effect on hair follicles and oil-producing glands in the skin, and in time this hormone can cause hair loss. Regular testosterone is converted into DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. Finasteride inhibits the action of the enzyme, thus preventing the formation of testosterone into DHT. This will essentially stop hair loss that would normally be caused by an excess of DHT. It has proven to be effective in 83 percent of patients who have used it to stop hair loss.
Finasteride is administered orally in the form of a tablet. The recommended dosage is 1mg daily. Many people believe that they can get better results by doubling or otherwise altering the dosage or even skipping days altogether. This is absolutely not recommended. Finasteride alters the body’s hormones, and even when changes occur hormones must ultimately be stable in order for the medication to work properly. Going against the doctor’s orders and altering the dosage if finasteride will most likely do more harm than good.
Side effects of finasteride are actually fairly common in the beginning of the treatment. This is due to the nature of the medication itself. As stated above, finasteride causes hormonal changes, and such changes always require an adjustment period before the body gets used to them. The side effects of finasteride are rarely life-threatening and usually go away after about a month.
Every medication carries with it the risk of some more serious side effects, and finasteride is no exception. While these side effects are uncommon, they can occur and they can be quite serious. Some of the more serious side effects of finasteride include allergic reactions that can result in rashes, hives, swelling around the mouth and difficulty breathing as well as breast enlargement, depression, testicular pain and erectile dysfunction.