Male-pattern baldness, another term for androgenetic alopecia, is due to the harmful effects of the male hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. The result would be that there is significant hair loss in the front, top and crown of the scalp (rather than the sides and at the back of the head). Dihydrotestosterone causes one to lose hair by means of shortening the anagen phase (growth phase) of the hair growth cycle. This results to the decreased size or miniaturization of the hair follicles. The affected hair shafts become shorter and extremely finer, until it gradually breaks off and the root hairs cease growing.
DHT is created by the action of the enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase on the male hormone testosterone. The one that can block this kind of enzyme is called finasteride. By blocking the enzyme, the testosterone cannot be converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the hair follicles. Finasteride bears the brand name Propecia – the only oral medication for hair loss that is approved by the FDA.
The action of finasteride causes a substantial drop of DHT in the scalp and in the bloodstream. With only 1 mg of finasteride, the DHT levels in the blood serum have decreased by more than 70%. The testosterone levels in the blood serum have actually increased by 9%; however, this is actually within normal limits.
It was commonly perceived that finasteride was first used only as a medication for prostate enlargement problems, and it was only by chance that it was discovered to prevent the progression of hair loss. As a matter of fact, in 1974, Imperato-McGinley who is a researcher have described a group of male children residing in the Salinas village of the Dominican Republic who were lacking the enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase. Throughout their lives, these male children have had very low levels of dihydrotestosterone in their system; therefore, their prostates stayed small, and they never did develop male-pattern baldness, not even acne!
This led to the conclusion that the cause of male-pattern baldness was the presence of 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Male-pattern baldness would be treated if only the 5-alpha reductase would be blocked or inhibited. Thus, finasteride was created.
Finasteride has to be taken only once a day, with or without food. Before its hair-loss prevention ability could be evidently seen, patients must take finasteride for at least 1 year or even longer. That is the only time when the regrowth of hair can be assessed accurately. During the first 6 months, you may notice that there is some thinning occurring on your existing hair. This may be because of two reasons: either your hair is already going to fall off before finasteride has had its chance to work, or there will be some shedding of miniaturized hair going on first before new healthy hair will start to grow. When it comes to treating ailments, it is very important to be patient at this time. You must continue using the medicine for at least 1 whole year before you and your doctor can accurately evaluate its benefits on your condition.
It is very important that before you take finasteride, you must consult with your doctor. Finasteride is approved by the FDA; however, this medication has its own set of side effects, just like any other medication. Sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, decreased volume of ejaculate, erectile dysfunction were some side effects that were reported by users of finasteride. There are some men, however, who were fortunate enough not to have these kinds of side effects; thus, it is really important that you need to consult with your doctor first before using finasteride for your hair loss problems.