Women and Propecia Side Effects – What the Research Says

A lot has been written about Propecia side effects when it comes to men. But what about women? We all know that women lose their hair as well, even though women typically experience it differently than men. Men tend to suffer from male pattern baldness at the upper temples and the crown of the head, while women tend to lose hair more uniformly across their entire scalp, in a gradual thinning. However it happens, hair loss is an issue for both males and females.

Originally created as a treatment for enlarged prostate and marketed as Proscar (generic name finasteride), Propecia is a hair-loss medication that many people turn to. And while the American Hair Loss Association lists this remedy as a medication that women can take, it should be noted that the FDA has yet to approve it for women because there’s not sufficient research. This means that the potential side effects for women are not sufficiently known either. Women are generally advised not to use the medication while pregnant or to get pregnant while using it, due to the risk posed to the developing fetus due to finasteride’s hormonal effects. But with so much unknown, how safe are women taking it?

Propecia for women
The role Propecia plays in female pattern hair loss is still controversial. The results are varying with some showing success and other failure.

Studies on Propecia Side Effects in Women

There have been a few studies focused on using Propecia for reversing hair loss in women, with different results. A yearlong study from 2000 did not find Propecia was effective for women, but did also not find any negative side effects. The study involved 137 postmenopausal women who received 1 mg Propecia daily.  More recent case studies have reached the conclusion that finasteride could be effective for female pattern hair loss if the dose was increased to between 2.5 mg and 5 mg daily.

A 2012 study designed to find the exact minimal effective dosage, used 1.25 mg daily for 28 weeks. This study concluded that while the treatment did show results, it was probably not the most efficient dosage. Patients showed increased hair density and hair loss stopped, but hair growth did not return. So while researchers have not found the optimal dosage, Propecia’s role in female pattern hair loss is still controversial.

While some women with female pattern hair loss might benefit from Propecia, a better understanding of the side-effects and ideal dosage are needed. Some of the known side effects for women that have been observed are heat flashes, increased body hair growth, and sweating—although the same effects were observed in women who received a placebo treatment, and could be related to menopause. The main concern is that Propecia can affect male fetuses, including signs of feminization and various birth defects. The drug is so potent that pregnant women are advised to not even touch crushed or broken tablets because Propecia can be absorbed through the skin.

How Does Propecia Work in Women?

Hair loss continues to be a common problem and is normally even more distressing and upsetting for women than for men. Our hair plays a huge part in our self-image and losing it prematurely and unwantedly is likely to affect our self-esteem. Women will twice as often as men become very-to-extremely upset when experiencing hair loss. This means there will always be a market for a hair loss treatment that works, and researchers are still hard at work trying to find it.

Different types of hair loss require different approaches. While male pattern baldness is primarily caused by sensitivity to testosterone, this is not the root cause of all female pattern hair loss. Women also produce a certain amount of testosterone, but only some women that suffer from hair loss display an elevated amount of the hormone.

Propecia, or finasteride, works by targeting the enzyme type II 5α-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone in our bodies to the more potent male hormone dihydrotestosterone, DHT, which causes hair loss. It was initially believed that finasteride would be effective in treating hair loss in women who had an elevated amount of testosterone, so called hyperandrogenism. But results from studies were inconsistent, and as mentioned above, success was not universal.

Still a Few Question Marks

In conclusion, there is no clear evidence either one way or the other, and Propecia may or may not work for you. Further research into what kind of woman is a good candidate for this medication must be conducted. Researchers also have little information on what the optimal dosage for women is. Any noticeable results may take at least 6 months, and in some cases even longer. And much like when men are using Propecia, the effects are not sustained without continued treatment.

What You Can Do Instead

Take a look at your habits. If you do not feel like risking anything and want another solution to your hair loss, start by treating the underlying problem. If it is not genetic, your hair loss could be caused by factors like stress, lack of sleep, lack of certain nutrients or an unhealthy lifestyle. Make sure you eat enough protein, since protein is the main building block of hair. Drinking enough water and exercising regularly also helps.

Check with your doctor. It could also be a thyroid disorder, hormonal imbalance or skin infection like scalp fungus. Getting a proper diagnosis is key to solving your individual issue.

Look over your medications. In some cases, sensitivity to a certain medication can contribute to and worsen hair loss. This even goes for common medications like Aleve, Motrin or antidepressants.

Take care of your hair. Avoid hairstyles that pull or tug on your hair like tight braids, cornrows or hair extensions. Do not wash your hair too often, and use a natural shampoo and conditioner – or even homemade ones. Skip the hairspray and other products with chemicals for a while.

Choose a natural supplement. Taking a supporting supplement or vitamins that you suspect you are deficient in could go a long way.

Impotence and Suicidal Thoughts – Propecia Side Effects You Should Know About

What are the side effects of propecia?

Propecia is a common hair loss medication containing the drug finasteride, but it’s success may come with a price. Merck, the pharmaceutical company which developed finasteride, has been accused of downplaying some scary side effects. The company has also claimed these negative effects would be reversed after ceasing to use the medication, something that’s turned out not to be the case for everyone.

What Merck Didn’t Want You to Know

In 2015, researchers published a study revealing that using finasteride triples the risk of becoming impotent, even if on low doses. Finasteride also increases the likelihood of needing prescriptions for sexual-performance medications by almost fivefold. Some of Propecia’s side effects include erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorders, swelling of the hands and feet, skin rashes and dizziness. But it can also affect the user’s mental state, causing depression and suicidal thoughts.

Merck has been the target of some 1,400 lawsuits—some of which were presented in court during the fall of 2016. A New York judge selected the most outstanding of those cases to represent the larger group. According to the World Health Organization, another 69 men have committed suicide as a consequence of using the drug. So it seems this medication could not only render you impotent but also make you want to end your life. While it’s true that these side-effects don’t happen to the majority of users—are the risks worth it?

Side effects of using propecia
One of Propecia’s side-effects includes mental changes, caused by a decrease in the production of DHT, upsetting the production of other hormones in the brain.

Propecia Side Effects—the Study

Scientists aren’t completely sure how Propecia side effects arise but they have something to do with the enzyme type II 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into its most active form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

DHT is a strong contributing factor to male pattern baldness and also can lead to enlargement of the prostate. Finasteride works by diminishing DHT levels in the body. At first the drug was only used as a treatment for prostate cancer until it was discovered that it also had a positive effect on patients’ hair growth, Propecia was developed and marketed specifically for that purpose.

However, some men experience severe side effects. In a 2015 study of 4900 men taking finasteride, 577 of them reported persistent sexual dysfunction. Thirty-nine experienced suicidal tendencies.

New Information

According to new research, mental changes while taking Propecia are a result of the decrease in the production of DHT, which disrupts the production of other hormones in the brain. According to New York neuroendocrinologist Alan Jacobs, the drug can lead to hormones like cortisol and progesterone turning into “neurosteroids” which have important behavioral purposes. This could lead the brain to exacerbate sexual problems and cause the user to become depressed or suicidal.

As early as 2012, patients began reporting serious side effects from Propecia. That lead Merck to finally start including on the label that “in some cases” the sexual side effects “continued after discontinuation of treatment.” The company also added depression as a potential side effect on the label. Interestingly, by this time, Propecia labels had already been changed in Sweden and some other European countries. Patients there started reporting persistent side effects as early as 2008. But for U.S. male patients, Merck waited until the FDA had received 421 reports of sexual dysfunction before they updated their labels.

What’s in store for Merck and Propecia use as a result of these lawsuits is yet to be seen. Ted Laszlo, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, thinks the possibility that Propecia will be discontinued is low. The plaintiffs are only seeking monetary damages and he believes their case is strong.

“Merck introduced a drug that they knew could cause sexual dysfunction in users, and they soon learned that in some users the symptoms did not resolve,” he says in an interview in Vice. “With that knowledge, they continued to market the drug for years saying that if you stopped using it, the symptoms would go away. They hid their knowledge.”