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Fact or Fiction: Diving Into the Side Effects of Finasteride

Most medications come with side effects. Some side effects are minor and cause little to no problems, while others are arguably worse than the condition the medicine is supposed to be treating. For this reason, it’s important to speak to your doctor and pharmacist before taking any new medication.

When it comes to hair loss, finasteride has been a popular solution helping guys stop hair loss. It’s one of the few androgenic alopecia treatments that’s been approved by the FDA for hair loss. And since you take finasteride once a day orally, hair loss prevention doesn’t mean making drastic changes to your daily routine.  Furthermore, finasteride is so successful at fighting male pattern baldness that it completely stops hair loss in roughly 83% of the men who take it while even regrowing some hair for more than 66% of its users.

But does finasteride come with side effects? The answer is yes, but there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding finasteride and side effects. The truth is that finasteride does cause some side effects to a small portion of the people who take it, but the vast majority of men who use it benefit from a successful hair loss treatment without experiencing any undesired results. Let’s take a look at a couple of finasteride’s well-known side effects so that we can separate the fact from the fiction.

Does Finasteride kill your sex drive?


There’s a common misconception that taking finasteride will cause you to have sexual side effects, and that’s not necessarily true. While it is true that some people experienced side effects in the form of impotence, decreased libido, and ejaculatory dysfunction during 73 different clinical trials, it only affected two to three percent of people taking finasteride. Furthermore, for most patients, the onset of these side effects started early in the tests and tended to go away a couple of months later as the patients continued the treatment for the vast majority of men who noticed it. With that said, it is true that a small percentage of men (less than 2%) will experience erectile dysfunction and a low sex drive while taking finasteride and potentially after. If you notice that it’s affecting your sex life, contact your doctor before continuing treatment.

Can Finasteride Cause Cancer


Another myth about finasteride is that it causes cancer, which isn’t what the research shows. In fact, researchers have found that long-term use of finasteride may actually reduce the chances of prostate cancer. In a seven-year study posted in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers discovered that men ages 55 and older who took finasteride for seven years were less likely to develop prostate cancer. However, in the same study, researchers did find that a small number of men were at an increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer after taking finasteride – roughly 3.5% of the men who took it. While this is a small percentage, it’s still important to note that there is a slim chance that finasteride could increase the likelihood of prostate cancer or higher grade cancer in 3.5% of the men taking it. For this reason, it’s important that you take precautionary measures by talking to your doctor and scheduling routine check-ups.

Finasteride and the Bottom Line

 
The difference between finasteride and other drugs or unregulated hair loss medicines is that finasteride is well studied and only a small percentage of the population will experience side effects. There are other side effects you should know about as well - for example some people also report that finasteride makes them feel dizzy or weak, so make sure that you talk with your doctor and disclose any medical history before beginning finasteride. And if you experience any of the side effects, make sure to schedule an appointment with the doctor to determine what the best plan of action should be.

Overall, finasteride is an FDA approved drug that is safe and incredibly effective drug that helps fight men’s hair loss. It works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT in the scalp. In fact, it’s one of the most effective hair loss treatments on the market. It can also be combined with minoxidil, a topical treatment which has also been approved by the FDA to treat male pattern baldness. Most people experience better results when using both of these products together. During one study, men who took finasteride and applied minoxidil twice a day actually grew significant hair over the course of 20 weeks. For most men, it is a great way to stop the effects of male pattern baldness dead in their tracks.

Talk to you doctor to learn more about finasteride and how it can work for you.

This article was reviewed by Brendan Levy, MD.