Propecia is a drug used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss. Male pattern hair loss is also known as ANDROGENIC ALOPECIA. The condition is quite common and affects more than 35 million men in the US. Hair loss becomes noticeable to 40% of men by the age of 35 years, although it can occur as early as 30 years. Androgenic alopecia exhibits itself in the following ways:
Hair loss that starts at the vertex of the scalp
Hair starts to thin out from the corners where the sideburns and hair on the forehead meet. The hair loss progresses inwards towards the top of the scalp. The hair on the sides of the head i.e. the side burns does not exhibit thinning.
Hair loss starts at the anterior mid-scalp
Hair starts to thin out from the top of the head. The thinning radiates outwards to the front and slightly toward the back. The thinning of hair does not affect the sideburns.
An individual initially manifesting one of the two forms of male hair loss, eventually develops the other. In the advanced stage of the condition the two forms of hair loss join up. The male individual is eventually left with hair only on the sideburns joining to hair on the back of the head. The top of the scalp is completely bald at this point.
The active ingredient in Propecia is finasteride. The drug was approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of male hair loss in 1997. Propecia is made by the drug giant Merck. Another common brand name using finasteride is Proscar
Propecia is available in the form of tablets taken once a day. The daily dose is 1mg of finasteride. Propecia has to be taken for more than 3 months before any visible results can be observed. The treatment has to continue for a long time if the benefits realized are to persist. This is because once the use of the drug is discontinued, all the hair gained is lost within the 12 months.
Mode of Action
Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase-inhibitor and inhibits the action of the type II Isoenzyme. The type II isoenzyme is responsible for the conversion of testerone to dihyrotesterone(DHT). DHT is the hormone responsible for hair loss in men. Propecia therefore reduces DHT activity in the scalp preventing further hair loss. It also allows new hair to grow and replace the lost hair.
When finasteride is no longer available to prevent DHT formation, hair loss starts over again. This is why when the taking of Propecia tablets is discontinued, all the hair regained is lost within 12 months. Propecia has to be taken for a prolonged period of time. This is usually until finasteride no longer can contain and reverse hair loss.
Side Effects of Propecia
Finasteride is linked to other indirect effects on the male reproductive system and the brain. These effects are as follows:
- Finasteride causes a reduction of apipidermal weight. The epipidermis is a part of the testes that is responsible for the formation of sperm. The effect of finasteride on the epipidermis leads to two undesirable outcomes namely:
1. A decrease in the motility of sperm i.e. a decrease in the life of sperm
2. The normal morphology of sperm is altered i.e. the structure of sperm is deformed.
- In the brain, finasteride is believed to reduce the activity of the neural receptor GABA. By doing this the tampering down of signals between neurons is decreased. This affects normal brain function.
The two effects above are linked to the following physical side effects:
• Decreased sex drive
• Inability to achieve orgasm
• Erectile disfunction
• The inability to ejaculate
• Mood disorders
However, not all men who take Propecia experience the above side effects. In a study of 945 men who were taking the medication to treat hair loss, only 34 men exhibited the above side effects. This is why anyone intending to use Procepia for treating hair loss, should first consult a qualified doctor on the potential risks.
Individuals with the following conditions should not take Propecia for the treatment of hair loss.
• Persons with liver disease or with abnormal liver enzymes
• Persons with prostate cancer
• Persons suffering from bladder muscle disorder
• Persons with stricture of the urethra
• Persons with an existing allergy to finasteride and distasteride
Apart from male breast cancer, the use of Propecia does also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.