According to the American Hair Loss Association, male pattern baldness (MPB) accounts for more than 90 percent of hair loss in men. Also known as androgenetic alopecia, MPB affects about two-thirds of American men by the age of 35. By age 50, about 85 percent of men experience significant thinning hair due to MPB. In addition, 25 percent of men will experience MPB before the age of 21. Hair loss can affect interpersonal relationships, professional lives and even the internal happiness of men. Fortunately, with proper intervention, the process of MPB can be slowed down or stopped when treated early enough.
What Causes MPB?
MPB is a progressive condition, and scientists believe it is also an inherited condition. With MPB, the chemical dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a major factor. DHT is a byproduct of testosterone. While the entire genetic process of MPB is not known yet, scientists do know that the hair follicles must be exposed to the hormone for a prolonged period of time in order for the hair follicle to complete the miniaturization process. This chemical actually shrinks the hair follicle until it no longer generates new hair. The lifespan of each hair follicle is affected. Specifically, those with MPB have a genetic sensitivity to DHT. Studies have been done on men who are losing their hair and revealed elevated levels of DHT. Those with a family history of hair loss have an increased risk for MPB.
MPB is typically diagnosed based on the pattern of hair loss, hair appearance and family history. Medical hair loss experts examine the scalp with a densitometer. This device allows for magnification of the hair follicle in order to assess the degree of shrinkage of the follicles. It’s an important assessment for determining the right course of treatment.
Propecia for MPB
Propecia is a medication to treat MPB on the anterior mid-scalp area and vertex area. This pill blocks the formation of DHT in the scalp. Clinical studies have been done to prove the effectiveness of Propecia. In one clinical study, men with moderate to mild hair loss were given 1 mg of Propecia along with a placebo group and were tracked over a five-year period. The results were as follows:
- All of the participants who didn’t take Propecia lost hair.
- Ninety percent of men who took Propecia has visible results. Further hair loss was eliminated in 42 percent of participants, and 48 percent had regrowth of new hair.
- Two out of three men who took this medication regrew hair.
- The majority of men who received Propecia were noted as improved by doctors.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this was the longest controlled clinical trial of a hair loss treatment. It is also the first drug in medical history to effectively treat MPB in the majority of men who take it. This study specifically noted differences in the treated and non-treated groups. Those who took Propecia showed a difference of 277 hairs in a one-inch diameter when compared to those who received a placebo. Keith Kaufman of Merck Research Laboratories states that this scientific data shows the success of Propecia in the treatment of MPB.
How Fast Does Propecia Work?
Propecia begins to work right away, however, it may take up to 12 months to see results, and results vary. Most doctors recommend trying it for at least one year before assessing its benefits. Some users experience regrowth while others only note no further hair loss. It’s important to realize that taking Propecia is a long-term commitment. If you stop taking it, hair loss will likely progress. Usually, over two to six months following discontinuation of Propecia, the hair loss pattern will return as if the medication was never taken.
The typical dosage is 1 mg a day, which can be taken with or without meals. There is no scientific evidence that a 5 mg dose is more effective than a 1 mg dose. Generally, doctors will increase the dosage only when the patient has been on the same dose for about three years and then fails to respond. Side effects are uncommon with Propecia. Hives, testicular pain and breast tenderness have been noted by some, but were not statistically significant. It is contraindicated for pregnant women.