Journal Post - Understanding the Side Effects of Finasteride

Hair Loss

Understanding the Side Effects of Finasteride

December 2, 2018

By Alpha Medical

It’s fair to say that most medications come with a list of side effects, varying from minor and likely negligible to terrifying enough to offset any benefits of the medication’s treatment. Talking to your doctor or a healthcare professional can help you better assess the full effects of any medical treatment.

Finasteride should be approached with the same careful consideration, and we’re here to help provide you with just the facts before you consult your doctor.

Like many other medications, finasteride does have side effects. And just like many other medications, plenty of misinformation and myths about those side effects also exist, perpetuated by a couple of factors. Given finasteride’s popularity, the media may have played a role in publicizing studies to a public that may not have fully grasped the medical jargon that explained the studies. The sensitive nature of the side effects and the looming possibility of class action lawsuits may have greatly contributed to the widespread misconception the issue received,

The plain and simple truth is the vast majority of men who use finasteride to treat androgenetic alopecia have benefited from successful treatment with no unwanted symptoms. The number of people who reported negative side effects from finasteride use remains a small percentage.

Since its introduction to the public in 1998, finasteride remains a popular option for men in search of a hair loss treatment. Its popularity is certainly in part due to its status as one of the very few treatments for androgenic alopecia to be approved by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Finasteride has repeatedly proven its ability to fight male pattern baldness—clinical trials found that drug successfully stopped hair loss in 83 percent of men, while 66 percent even experienced a significant increase in hair growth. Additionally, finasteride’s small dose and oral ingestion pose little to no interruption in the lives of its users.

Let’s dive into finasteride’s most discussed side effects to dispel any further misinformation.

"Finasteride gives you cancer."

A common misconception about finasteride is that it can cause cancer. Ironically, research actually shows the opposite.

Finasteride has been shown to reduce the risk of low-grade prostate cancer in men 55 and older. A phase III Prostate Cancer Prevention trial found a 25 percent reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer with 5-αlpha reductase inhibitor chemoprevention. Long-term follow-up results continued to suggest that regular use of finasteride for up to 7 years decreased the risk of low-grade prostate cancer in men age 55 and older.

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 (about 3.5 percent) of the men who took it. However, there was no negative impact on their survival rates compared to the placebo group.

"Finasteride will disrupt your sex life."

There seems to be a widespread misconception that finasteride will cause unwanted sexual side effects. Before telling you that it’s not necessarily true, perhaps it may help you more to learn where this misconception originated.

It is true that finasteride can cause some people to experience side effects in the form of impotence, decreased libido, and ejaculatory dysfunction during 73 different clinical trials. However, finasteride was shown to be infrequently associated with each symptom, affecting only two to three percent of users. For reference, finasteride clinical trials reported 2.1% of male patients in the placebo group also reported some form of sexual side effects, including less desire for sex, difficulty in achieving an erection, or a decrease in the amount of semen released during sex.

In real-world manifestations, men who noticed the onset of similar side effects reported they did not last after a couple months of continued treatment. The remaining men who reported continued side effects made up less than two percent of users.

Actual side effects:

Here are several common side effects that can occur with finasteride:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Rash
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Swelling or tenderness in your breasts

If these effects are mild, they may disappear within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they are prolonged or become more severe, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

For full prescription information, you can view the drug label information here.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and accurate information. However, drugs affect each individual differently We can not guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information should not be misconstrued as medical advice. When assessing medication, always speak to your doctor or healthcare provider who understands your medical history.

Conclusion

Repeated reviews and reexaminations of the side effects of finasteride and the possibility of their long-term impact yields the same results as the studies originally conducted to gain FDA approval: finasteride is a safe and effective option for treating hair loss in men.

It works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into DHT, preventing the stunting effects of DHT on hair follicles with inherited sensitivity. Finasteride has worked so well that it remains one of the most popular hair loss treatments on the market today. Users have also achieved great success combining finasteride with minoxidil, another FDA approved hair loss treatment.

However, a number of misconceptions about finasteride remain in circulation due to a lack easily accessible and assessable information. Additionally, a series of media events, FDA announcements, and label changes in its history may have contributed to raising alarm about finasteride.

The bottom line is there are no clear causal links between finasteride and adverse sexual effects or cancer. However, we believe the Information about all adverse events should be available for the careful consideration of individual patients. We advise you speak with a doctor or pharmacist to fully assess your treatment options.

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