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Propecia - Finasteride

Hair loss is a traumatic event for men, but fortunately, there are treatments available today that help men restore hair and a more youthful appearance. While some involve medical procedures in a physician’s office, others are as simple as taking a daily medication. Propecia is an oral medicine that stops hair loss at its source and even helps grow hair back for some patients. Dr. Maas offers Propecia as a part of his comprehensive hair restoration program, offering his male patients a variety of options in regaining a full head of hair through both pharmaceuticals and minimally-invasive medical treatments.

The History and Science behind Propecia’s Success

Propecia is the brand name for the medication finasteride. This substance was initially prescribed to treat an enlarged prostate in men and continues to be used for this purpose today. However, physicians began to note that in addition to managing a prostate issue effectively, finasteride also led to hair regrowth on the scalp in some patients. In 1997, the FDA approved finasteride as the first oral medication to treat male pattern baldness.

Reasons Behind Male Pattern Baldness

As many as half of all men will experience some degree of hair loss by the time they reach 50, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). There are three primary causes of male pattern baldness, which usually work together to produce hair loss:

  • Genetics – if you have a family history of male pattern baldness, you are more likely to experience a degree of hair loss yourself
  • Age – although some men begin to lose hair at a much younger age, the majority will suffer noticeable hair loss by the age of 50 and beyond
  • Hormones – changes in male sex hormones, known as androgens, affect hair growth and loss by causing shrinkage of the hair follicles that eventually leads to the inability of hair to grow there

It is the third cause that is effectively addressed for many men that choose to take a daily dose of Propecia.

How Finasteride Works

Finasteride works to reverse the underlying processes that lead to male pattern baldness in many men. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the primary androgen responsible for a loss of hair in men. This byproduct of testosterone binds to receptors in the cells of your hair follicles, leading to their shrinkage and eventual death. Over time, more testosterone is converted to DHT, which is why hair loss often occurs beginning in the middle years of life.

Finasteride blocks DHT from binding with the cells in hair follicles to stop the shrinkage of follicles and the consequential hair loss. In some cases, DHT levels are decreased sufficiently to encourage regrowth of hair in some of the follicles that had been initially affected by the hormone. Clinical trials have found that finasteride stops hair loss in the majority of patients, while a smaller number saw hair regrowth while taking the medication. The medication worked on hair loss in various problem spots on the scalp, including the vertex and the temples.

Best Candidates for Propecia

Propecia tends to work best on younger men in the early hair loss stage that are not yet good candidates for a hair transplant procedure. At this point, stopping hair loss can make a significant difference in preserving current hair. However, the medication may also be prescribed to older men with more substantial hair loss in some cases. Propecia may be prescribed alone or in conjunction with other hair loss treatments to maximize the benefit. For examples, studies suggest that combining finasteride with the topical medication minoxidil (Rogaine) produces more dramatic results for many men.

Treatment and Possible Side Effects

Dr. Maas will prescribe the standard dose of Propecia, which is one mg. daily. This dose is the amount approved by the FDA for men of every height, weight and age. The dosage amount will not change over time. The medication will need to be continued to maintain the positive benefits. If you stop taking Propecia, hair loss may resume over time.

A small number of men taking Propecia have experienced sexual side effects, including reduced sex drive and impotence. In nearly all cases, the side effects were reversed once the medication was stopped. Other side effects are also rare and may include depression and male breast growth known as gynecomastia. The treatment is not effective in women and should not be handled by women that are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Hair Restoration Over Time

Although Propecia has an immediate effect on DHT levels, you won’t see the benefits of the medication right away. Most men start to notice new hair growth within three to four months, with significant improvement in six to nine months. It will likely take up to one year to see complete results, and at that time, you will need to maintain your Propecia regimen to keep those follicles functioning. If you stop taking the medication, the follicles will likely shrink again over time and hair loss will begin to recur.

Propecia is just one option in hair restoration offered at The Maas ClinicTM. To learn about our full menu of hair loss treatments, contact our office today at (415) 567-7000 or contact us by email to schedule your consultation with Dr. Maas.

It is never too late, To be what you might have been.- George Eliot