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Propecia is a drug that is primarily used for treatment of male pattern hair loss. Male pattern hair loss is commonly described as thinning of the hair on the scalp, and areas most commonly affected are the vertex (or front of hairline) and anterior mid-scalp (top of the head). Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body.
Male pattern hair loss often results in thinning of the hair, leading to a patchy appearance at the front of top of the head, or a receding hairline. Propecia can be used to help counteract the effects of male pattern hair loss, helps in regrowing hair, and also may be used to help shrink the size of the prostate, reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men.
Propecia is the only medication approved by the Food & Drug Administration as a treatment for hair loss in men. It has been available since 1997 as a hair loss treatment, and is now available as a generic, finasteride. This same drug was originally marketed as Proscar and was approved in 1992 as a treatment for prostate enlargement.
By reducing serum DHT concentration, the shrinking of hair follicles is reduced, allowing follicles to regrow visible hair. Propecia has been shown to have an excellent track record of success – with 90% of those using it for hair loss maintaining or increasing hair growth five years after treatment. 48% of those men had experienced additional hair growth, while 42% experienced no additional hair loss after beginning treatment. In another study that ran at the same time using a placebo, only 19% of the men experienced no additional hair loss, while 75% did continue to experience hair loss.
Propecia is beneficial in areas of the scalp where hair is thinning, but it is not effective in regrowing areas that have gone completely bald. Propecia halts or slows down hair loss, and allows thinning hair to grow in fuller. The effects of Propecia peak in one to two years, and it continues to be effective for at least five years. Once Propecia is discontinued, hair loss may start to appear again in two to six months.
Propecia should never be taken by women or children, and the tablets should be handled by women or children, as Propecia can be absorbed through the skin. There is a protective coating on the tablets that prevents contact with active ingredients during normal handling, as long as the tablets are intact. If a woman or child should come in contact with a broken or damaged tablet, they should wash their hands with soap and water right away. Those who have experienced an allergic reaction to finasteride should not take Propecia. It is recommended that you visit your doctor prior to beginning on Propecia so they can assess if you have any conditions that may prevent you from safely using the drug. Your doctor may want to do routine blood tests to ensure the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood is not increasing, as this has been linked with prostate cancer.
Propecia should be taken as prescribed. Larger doses than prescribed should not be taken, nor should it be taken for longer than prescribed. Propecia can be taken with or without food, should be taken with a full glass of water, and taken at the same time every day. It can take up to three months or more before you see improvement and users should realize it is a drug that works over the long term. Propecia should be stored at room temperature, away from moisture, heat, and light. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember; if it close to time for your next dose, skip the missed dose.
I am a doctor working in Melbourne, Victoria.