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Fact or Fiction: Diving Into the Side Effects of Finasteride

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.

Important Safety information


Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.

Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).

It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).

Finasteride is not for use by women and children.

Who should not take Finasteride?

Do not take Finasteride if you:

  • are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
    • Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
    • If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
  • are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.

    What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver

    Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

    Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

    How should I take Finasteride?

  • Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • You may take Finasteride with or without food.
  • If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.

    Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.

    What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?

  • decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.

    The most common side effects of Finasteride include:

  • decrease in sex drive
  • trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • a decrease in the amount of semen

    The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:

  • breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
  • depression;
  • decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
  • allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
  • problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
  • testicular pain;
  • difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
  • male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
  • in rare cases, male breast cancer.

    Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

    These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.

    How should I store Finasteride?

  • Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
  • Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).

    Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.

    General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.

    Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.