The hair on your head is a living organism. New hair is always beginning to grow but when each hair reaches the end of its life – usually after about 4 months – it departs your scalp. It falls out. This happens to everyone. Losing your hair is normal. For some though the amount of hair loss is greater than for others and this abnormal amount of hair loss can occur with men, women and even children.
Excessive hair loss can be caused by a number of factors such as stress, a serious illness or disease, a hormonal imbalance, medicines such as blood thinners and antidepressants and last but not least by genes, by inheritance.
With men the common description of hair loss is baldness with the most common cause of such hair loss being an inherited condition. Baldness is passed from generation to generation. It is not a disease but a condition and the usual result is a receding hair line and a bald patch.
A great deal of time and money has been spent on researching the subject of hair loss, particularly in the field of male baldness, and while there are treatments such as different plastic surgery procedures with a popular procedure being implants to replace hair loss, there is another method. This popular treatment involves the prevention of hair loss in the first place.
What is Propecia?
This is a drug designed to prevent hair loss but also to help existing hair to become thicker and thus give the impression that the patient’s hair has grown back. It is taken in tablet form usually on an on-going basis. It is relatively inexpensive but as an approved drug is only available as a prescribed medicine.
Finasteride is a synthetic substance first approved to treat males having problems associated with an enlarged but benign prostate. More recently this drug has been approved in lower doses under the name of Propecia as a treatment for male hair loss.
In Australia a study (1) was made over 5 years of men with mild to moderate hair loss. Those who took 1mg of Propecia a day showed significant improvement in both the prevention of further hair loss and, in some cases, the regrowth of new hair. These results were significantly better than those produced by those men in the study who took the placebo drug and not Propecia.
The simple scientific explanation for the way Propecia works is to talk about male hormones and, in particular, DHT which is the main hormone believed to contribute to hair loss. Propecia reduces the production of DHT by approximately 60% thus enabling the rate of hair loss to be stopped or significantly reduced.
Despite it being a treatment to stop hair loss of choice for many people for a number of years now, there are some who still continue to question its effectiveness, and consider some of its side-effects not worth the risk.
Tests show that the answer is effective in most cases and effective in most places. Male baldness on the front and on the top of the head are two areas where Propecia consumers have experienced a cessation of hair loss and/or a thickening of their hair with some even experiencing some re-growth of new hair. But such gains have not been seen on the sides or temple areas of the head.
However, going by testimonials from users on major hair loss fora, it appears there are some that have some success with it while others continue to experience hair loss. But since some judge success by only regrowth, which is not really the goal of propecia but rather to stop hair loss, perhaps some of these people are overlooking the fact that they are seeing a drastic slowdown or even a complete halt in further hair loss and perhaps mild thickening of existing hair.
Another problem which can create difficulty in determining its success is that some experience ‘shedding’ in the beginning stages after starting propecia which result in hairs that were coming toward the end of their life cycle, to fall out prematurely. This can result them to discontinue use and label it ineffective when perhaps the best option might be to give it more time.
Does Propecia continue to work several years into treatment?
The best answer to that would be yes and no. There really isn’t any independent research to show effectiveness of Propecia several years after starting . But there are indications, albeit from testimonials from users, Propecia continues to remain effective for some while for others the level of effectiveness drops, likely because the body increases its resistance to the drug. It must be stressed these are testimonials from users and all the indications are that their views are impartial since they come from large hair loss forums that are independent of hair loss drug manufacturers. It is also possible some of the views may not be completely impartial as it is not unknown for drug companies to employ tactics of pushing sales on internet forums.
Side effects experienced by some
The trials conducted on Propecia have taken place over several years thus requiring participants to take 1mg of the drug every day. For some men this has resulted in one or more side effects. But as Propecia is approved by the FDA and is a prescription drug only, proper medical care is mandatory.
Some men taking Propecia have experienced such side effects as loss of libido and/or erectile dysfunction. In a recent clinical study involving almost 1000 men, of those taking 1 mg per day of Propecia, fewer than 4% of participants reported such side effects while 2.1% of participants taking the placebo drug reported such side effects.(2)
An overall summary of responses to the effectiveness of Propecia is that the drug
- Needs to be taken for a reasonably long time
- That the majority of consumers say that it works to varying degrees
- That it is better at preventing hair loss as opposed to helping hair re-grow
- That it continues to be effective several years after treatment began and
- That it is better used as part of an overall strategy to tackle hair loss, especially one that incorporates minoxidil (Rogaine), to expedite process of regrowth
No individual or group has claimed that Propecia is a cure for the prevention of hair loss. Millions have and continue to take it because for them the drug has been effective in their desire to prevent their condition of hair loss from worsening. Success levels are quite variable.
1) Australian Medicines Handbook 2004 Editor S. Rossi