What is Finasteride Used For?
Finasteride (and its branded version, Propecia) can be used for a number of conditions, including treating an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia) or male pattern hair loss. Male pattern hair loss is the most common type of hair loss in men. It is related to changes in hormone levels, and causes a receding hairline and hair loss towards the front and top of the head.
What Causes Hair Loss in Men?
Male pattern baldness is largely influenced by your genetics. Your genes may make your hair more sensitive to a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is a natural by-product of your body’s production of testosterone. If your hair is sensitive to DHT, it can reduce hair growth and lead to the production of fewer and finer hairs.
How Does Finasteride Work?
DHT is a by-product of testosterone produced in the body. This process is regulated by a chemical called 5-alpha reductase. Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor – this means that it blocks the action of the enzyme, preventing testosterone from being converted into DHT. In turn, this reduces the amount of hair loss you may face.
What are the Side Effects of Finasteride?
Due to the fact it acts upon the hormonal process that testosterone is part of, finasteride can have side effects – loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction and problems ejaculating are the most common. All of these processes involve testosterone, meaning lowered levels will have an effect. In rare cases, this process can also lead to testicular pain, infertility, pain, lumps or swelling in your chest and nipple discharge.
Other side effects of finasteride include depression, allergic reactions and heart palpitations (feeling your heart is skipping a beat). Speak to your doctor if you experience any side effects from finasteride.
If you experience a severe allergic reaction from finasteride, you need to stop taking the treatment and seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include breathing difficulties, swelling around the face, mouth and throat and a rash. This can be life-threatening, so treat it as a medical emergency and ring 999.
How to Cope with Finasteride Side Effects
If you are experiencing heart palpitations, depression, swelling or lumps on your chest or nipple discharge, you should call your doctor. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience a severe allergic reaction.
If you have difficulty getting an erection or if you lose interest in sex, these side effects should improve over time. If they do not get better within a few weeks, talk to your doctor. They may recommend a treatment for erectile dysfunction, such as sildenafil or tadalafil. If you ejaculate less semen than usual, this is not usually a problem, unless you are trying to conceive a child. If this does not improve or if you are trying to conceive, contact your doctor for medical advice.