Hair Growth Oral Medication
Finasteride, marketed under the trade name Propecia is currently the only oral medication that is FDA approved and used specifically for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (MPHL). This comes in a 1mg coated tablet that is taken once a day.
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Hormone Imbalances Lead To Hair Loss
In MPHL, there is an over production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body. DHT is produced when testosterone is converted by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. DHT causes hair loss in susceptible males and to a lesser extent, females as well. Finasteride stops the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme action. It is also known as a DHT blocker. As a result, there is a decrease of DHT level in the scalp. This will lead to hair growth and thickening of existing hairs. The medication needs to be taken continuously for at least 12 months in order to achieve results. It works best in the crown, midscalp and frontal region but not so well in the hairline. And it only works in areas where there is still fine hair. It will not work if the area is totally bald.
Giving it Time
For finasteride, remember that it takes 3 months to slow (the hair loss), 3 months to grow (new hair) and 3 months to show (any obvious growth). So patients are advised to take the medication continuously for at least 9 months and for as long as they would like to maintain their results. When finasteride is stopped, only the hair that was gained or preserved by the medication would be lost. In other words, the patient goes back to the level as if he had never taken the medication at all.
A Scientifcally-Proven Hair Growth Solution
Finasteride has been prescribed for more than 20 years successfully. In published studies, it was shown that after 5 years of taking finasteride, 90% of men either grew new hair or they stopped thinning futher. Only 10% of men continued to lose more hair.
There have been reports of men experiencing some form of sexual dysfunction as a side effect. Very often, the side effects are transient, meaning that they go away as the body gets accustomed to the medication. In others, the side effects stop only when the medication is discontinued. Thankfully, the number of patients affected remain a small, about 4% in published studies. The majority of patients will benefit from oral treatment without any side effects at all.
Finasteride is often combined with other treatments for the best results, especially in patients with moderate to severe hair loss. Minoxidil works well with finasteride, either as a topical hair spray or an oral capsule.
Finasteride is often prescibed as a complementing treatment for patients who are under-going a hair transplant for the following reasons:
- Finasteride helps to prevent further hair loss in areas where the hair transplant was not performed
- Finasteride is less effective in the front part of the scalp and that happens to be where a hair transplant works to give the best cosmetic improvement
- Finasteride can regrow or stabilize hair loss at the crown or back of the scalp where a hair transplant is not yet required, especially in younger patients
For those who choose not to take finasteride, or who cannot take it due to side effects, the hair transplant will still work well. The main difference is that finasteride can prevent further hair loss whereas a hair transplant cannot. Medications are not needed for a hair transplant to be successful or the transplanted hair to grow permanently.
To date, finasteride is prescribed mainly for men, but in certain instances, post-menopausal women have also benefitted too. This is prescribed off-label and on a case-by-case basis, subject to a thorough evaluation by the doctor in charge.
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