Finasteride is available as a generic drug and under the brand names Propecia and Proscar.
Finasteride is an oral prescription medication in the form of film-coated tablets. It is available as a generic drug and under the brand names Propecia and Proscar. Although generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name drugs, their availability may be limited when it comes to their form or strength when compared to the branded ones.
Finasteride decreases the level of a hormone with androgenic actions in the body called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Normally, DHT in males causes their prostate to become larger, so low levels of DHT can help prevent the prostate from increasing its size. It can also enable the growth of hair and reduce the loss of hair on the head. The growth of hair on other body parts is not usually affected.
Uses of Finasteride
1. For the treatment of male pattern baldness
Also, medically called as androgenic alopecia, male pattern baldness is a common type of hair loss in males. Approximately 50 percent of all men who are older than 50 years old will eventually be affected by male pattern baldness according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Hair loss in women most likely happens after menopause.
Using finasteride can help slow down the process of hair loss in men by inhibiting the production of a hormone that is responsible for hair loss. Finasteride also tends to be more effective than minoxidil. However, hair loss comes back when finasteride is stopped. To see significant results, finasteride should be taken at least three months. If there is still no improvement after 12 months, doctors will likely advise their patients to stop taking finasteride.
2. For prostate gland enlargement
Finasteride is also prescribed to men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an enlarged prostate. This medication may be used with other types of medication or used alone to help relieve BPH symptoms and to lessen the risk of surgery for treatment.
Aside from improving the symptoms of BPH, this medication also improves the following:
- Less straining with better urine flow
- Lowers the urge to urinate
- Reduces the frequency of nighttime urination
- Improved bladder emptying
The amount of a natural hormone in the body called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which enhances prostate growth is decreased by finasteride. However, this medication is not approved for prostate cancer prevention. In fact, it may somewhat increase men’s risk of developing a quite serious form of prostate cancer. Make sure to consult your healthcare provider regarding the benefits and risks of using finasteride.
This medication should not be taken by children and women.
3. For women with PCOS
In some cases, finasteride is prescribed to women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), especially those who develop hirsutism (unwanted male hair growth pattern), which is a condition that causes too much production of hormones called androgens.
Androgens are a group of hormones that play a significant role in the reproductive activity and characteristic traits of males. When finasteride is used, androgens are blocked, making hirsutism less pronounced. Hair loss in women due to PCOS is also reduced.
Hirsutism often shows in 70-80 percent of women with too much androgen in their body. When the amount of androgens is reduced, there is also a lesser growth of new hair.
The following are some of the side effects of finasteride:
- Breast growth
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Testicle pain
- Painful ejaculation
- Erection problems
- Swollen lips or face
Breast pain or lumps in the breast must be immediately evaluated by a doctor as finasteride, although rare, can also cause breast cancer.
A severe allergic reaction may occur in certain people who use finasteride. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical help right away or go to the nearest emergency room:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
People with Liver Disease
Finasteride is processed in the liver. When there is liver damage, the normal functioning of the liver is impaired, resulting in slower drug processing. Slow processing may lead to a buildup of finasteride in the liver, which increases a person’s risk of experiencing side effects. For this reason, doctors may reduce the drug’s dosage in people with known liver problems.
Men with Prostate Cancer
A faster prostate growth may occur when finasteride is used. If a patient has prostate cancer or has had prostate cancer, using finasteride can make their condition worse.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Finasteride is not usually prescribed to women and should not be used during pregnancy. Do not use finasteride if you are breastfeeding. It is still not known whether finasteride passes through breast milk.
This medication is not prescribed for children. The effectiveness and safety of this drug are not established in children.
An interaction occurs when substances change how certain drugs work. Drug interactions can be harmful and can prevent certain drugs from working properly. Make sure to inform your healthcare provider of all medications, vitamins, or supplements you are taking to help prevent drug interactions.
Use as Directed
Finasteride may come with serious risks if it is not properly used or taken according to your healthcare provider’s prescription. Using this medication involves long-term treatment. It also comes with significant risks if used otherwise.
If patients do not take this medication for the treatment of BPH or male pattern baldness, they may not see any improvement in their condition. If this medication is excessively taken, negative side effects may occur, such as low sex drive, erection and ejaculation problems, and an increase in size, pain, or tenderness in the breasts.
Finasteride: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2018). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698016.html
Inamadar, A., Ragunatha, S., & Anitha, B. (2009). Finasteride-its impact on sexual function and prostate cancer. Journal Of Cutaneous And Aesthetic Surgery, 2(1), 12. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.53093
DailyMed - FINASTERIDE - finasteride tablet, coated. (2017). https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=ecd2fbb2-a4bd-44f2-831d-179e7dbf0741
Smith, A. B., & Carson, C. C. (2009). Finasteride in the treatment of patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia: a review. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 5(3), 535-45.
Lakryc EM, e. (2018). The benefits of finasteride for hirsute women with polycystic ovary syndrome or idiopathic hirsutism. - PubMed - NCBI.