What is Finasteride?

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Kuddusi Onay

Finasteride is a medication widely known for its role in treating hair loss and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Originally approved by the FDA in 1992, it has since become a cornerstone treatment for men experiencing androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness. This drug has transformed the landscape of hair loss treatments, offering hope to many who seek to regain their hair and confidence.

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How Finasteride Works?

Finasteride works by inhibiting the action of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that can shrink hair follicles and contribute to hair loss. By reducing the levels of DHT in the scalp, finasteride helps to halt the progression of hair loss and, in some cases, stimulates new hair growth.

Uses of Finasteride

The primary uses of finasteride are for the treatment of male pattern baldness and BPH. For hair loss, it is typically taken in a 1 mg daily dose under the brand name Propecia. For BPH, the standard dose is 5 mg per day, marketed under the name Proscar. The medication can help improve urinary flow, reduce the size of the prostate, and alleviate symptoms associated with BPH.

Potential Side Effects of Finasteride 

While finasteride is generally well-tolerated, it can cause side effects in some individuals. Common side effects include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculation disorders. These side effects are often temporary and may resolve with continued use of the medication. However, some users may experience persistent sexual side effects even after discontinuing finasteride. Other less common side effects include breast tenderness or enlargement and hypersensitivity reactions.

Who Should Use Finasteride?

Finasteride is primarily prescribed for men and is not recommended for use in women or children. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid handling crushed or broken tablets of finasteride, as it can cause birth defects. Men considering finasteride should consult with their healthcare provider to discuss potential benefits and risks, especially if they have a history of liver disease or prostate cancer.

Effectiveness of Finasteride

Clinical studies have shown that finasteride can effectively slow down hair loss and promote hair regrowth in many men. Results may vary, with some users noticing significant improvements while others may experience only modest benefits. It is important to note that finasteride is most effective when used continuously; discontinuation of the medication can lead to the return of hair loss within a year.

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Finasteride vs. Other Hair Loss Treatments

Finasteride is often compared to other hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil (Rogaine), hair transplant surgery, and natural remedies. While minoxidil can also stimulate hair growth, it works through a different mechanism and is often used in combination with finasteride for enhanced results. Hair transplant surgery offers a permanent solution but is more invasive and expensive. Natural remedies and lifestyle changes can support hair health but may not be as effective as medical treatments like finasteride.

Finasteride typically starts to show results within three to six months of daily use. However, it may take up to a year to see the full benefits. Consistency is key, as discontinuing the medication can result in a reversal of progress.

Finasteride is not recommended for use in women, especially those who are pregnant or may become pregnant, due to the risk of birth defects. Women experiencing hair loss should consult their healthcare provider for alternative treatments.

If you miss a dose of finasteride, take it as soon as you remember. If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your regular schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one.

While most side effects of finasteride are temporary and resolve with continued use, some men may experience persistent sexual side effects even after discontinuing the medication. Long-term use has not been linked to any major health risks, but it is essential to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your health while on finasteride.

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