Treatment Options for Hair Loss and Side Effects
Hair loss, also known as alopecia, affects most men at some point in their lives. There are different causes of hairloss and some of them can be managed with medication.
There are many treatments available in the market – medical and non-medical. To help you make the most informed decision, let’s look at how some of the medical treatments work and also their potential side effects.
Finasteride is a drug that comes in the form of an oral pill that needs to be taken once a day. It is about 85 percent effective in inducing hair growth in the first three to four months. Under the right care and supervision of a doctor, it can reduce hair loss remarkably and get you back on track.
How does finasteride work?
Finasteride prohibits the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The main cause of hair loss is the sensitivity of hair follicles to DHT. DHT causes the hair follicles to gradually lose their strength and eventually stop growing hair.
To reap the benefits of finasteride, it has to be taken every day for at least three months to see results. It takes a little patience and some commitment but it has been a proven drug to combat hair loss.
Side effects of finasteride
Like most drugs, finasteride comes with some side effects. A small portion of people using finasteride experience side effects. It is always good to understand what to expect.
Does it affect my sex drive?
Sexual dysfunction has been rarely noticed in a few men who take finasteride according to the FDA study in 2012. Even though there is a very low probability (less than 2 percent) of experiencing a loss of libido and other sexual dysfunction issues, it is good to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
What are the common side effects?
A low percentage of men taking finasteride notice breast tenderness, depression, skin rashes, testicular pain, etc. Discuss all the existing pre-conditions and family history with your doctor before you start taking finasteride.
Decrease in prostate specific antigen (PSA)
Finasteride can affect the PSA test taken for screening prostate cancer. Make sure to tell your health care provider that you are taking finasteride as it can decrease PSA levels in your body.
Can it cause cancer?
This is an ongoing debate among researchers on the effects of finasteride on cancer. Researchers have not found any conclusive evidence to suggest that finasteride causes cancer. Talk to your physician about potential risks before starting treatment.
Minoxidil is a hair regrowth treatment that is also widely used to combat hair loss. Hair goes through three main stages of growth.
Anagen is the initial period in which the hair grows approximately 1cm per month. The longer the hair stays in anagen phase, the longer it will grow. This phase lasts for 3-7 years. About 85 percent of our hair is in this phase.
Catagen is a transitional phase that lasts about 2 weeks. In this phase, the hair shrinks and detaches itself from the follicle.
Telogen is the resting phase. The follicles remain dormant for one to four months. 10 to 15 percent of our hair is in this phase of growth at any given time.
How does Minoxidil work?
Minoxidil induces an early anagen phase when applied to your scalp. This, in turn, causes the hair follicles to go accelerate through the rest of the growth phase.
Minoxidil starts showing results after six months mark with a few or no noticeable changes in the first three months. It is recommended to use this treatment for at least a year to see the actual results of the drug.
Side effects of Minoxidil
A common side effect is Changes in color or texture of your hair.
Some rare side effects are.
- severe scalp irritation;
- unwanted growth of facial hair;
- chest pain, fast heartbeats;
- swelling in your hands or feet, rapid weight gain;
- a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;
- headache, dizziness, confusion; or
- flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling).
If you notice any of these symptoms call your doctor immediately. Before starting treatment, discuss all your concerns with a doctor.
The best choice for you would depend on your medical condition, your level of patience, and the choice of treatment can be determined by a doctor based on medical pre-conditions. To make the best choice, talk to our physicians, and learn more about all your options.