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Propecia, also known by its generic name finasteride, is one of the most commonly used drugs in tackling male pattern baldness. This is a condition characterized by thinning of the hair line from the vertex to the mid-scalp area as a result of hormonal changes. In many men, this condition is associated with low self esteem and the need to get rid of it necessitates the use of propecia. But how does this medicine work? In order to understand this easily, understanding the physiology of the condition is essential.
Male pattern baldness is controlled by genes as well as male hormones called androgens such as testosterone. For normal hair growth, this hormone needs to be maintained in its normal state. In people with this condition however, testosterone is converted to a more potent sexual hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. In this condition, a man’s follicles develop receptors for this hormone. As DHT attaches itself to the follicles, it treats them as foreign objects in the body causing inflammation, oiliness and itchiness of the affected parts. The high levels of DHT result in hair loss by causing hairs to become thin and short in the process of follicular miniaturization. The new strands forming from such strands are thinner than normal and eventually the hair follicles stop growing hair.
Propecia works to reverse the action of DHT on the human hair follicles. One pill taken in daily will act to inhibit the formation of DHT in the body. It is a specific type II 5-alpha reductase enzyme inhibitor which reduces the functioning capacity of the enzyme in the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. With time, the DHT blood levels become low and so do the levels in the scalp resulting in reversal of the effects of the DHT. The result is enlarging of the affected hair follicles and thicker hair grows. Propecia results in reduction of DHT by 70% in blood and 60% in the scalp respectively. The visible result is the growth of a modest amount of hair which is definitely so much better than being bald-headed. Though the hair may not be the same as before the condition arose, it is a much needed relief for many.
Possible side effects
Other than resulting in hair growth, propecia is associated with several side effects. Some of the common ones are:
· Reduced sexual desire
· Oily forehead skin
· Erectile dysfunction
· Less erectile volume
These changes can be attributed to the reduction in DHT levels which are known to be necessary for effective sexual functioning in men. The most common side effects therefore will be associated with the male reproductive health and organs.
How long does one need to take propecia for effective results?
This drug reduces the DHT levels very quickly but it takes much longer for the hair follicles to recover fully. It takes up to three months for any changes to be noted and this improves with time. Though notable hair re-growth will be seen by the end of a year, the treatment needs to be continued indefinitely to prevent hair loss from reoccurring.