Propecia, which is the brand name for Finasteride, is a popular and effective drug for combating pattern baldness in men (it should not be used by women). It is scientifically proven to stop balding completely, and even regrow hair if taken at an early balding stage.
However, its main drawback is the long list of its potential side effects, and especially sexual side effects. In this post I will be discussing some common propecia side effects that many men experience.
Propecia’s mechanism of work – a quick reminder
As I discussed in a previous post, Propecia stops hair loss by binding to 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) enzyme and as a result preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT, and thus significantly lowering DHT levels in the body.
Since DHT is the main reason for hair loss, because it slowly shrinks the hair follicles until they are virtually gone, propecia manages to stop hair loss and baldness.
This is great for stopping hair loss and the balding process, but unfortunately it is not all roses since reducing the levels of DHT in the blood might have effects on other functions of the body as well.
Understanding DHT and its function
DHT is an endogenous androgen sex steroid and hormone, which basically means that it is a natural substance that is produced in the body and that regulates the development and maintenance of male characteristics. It is made through conversion of testosterone (which is another androgen).
DHT and testosterone combined together cause many male characteristics such as a deep voice, growth of muscle mass, facial and body hair, and sexual drive. DHT is many times more potent than testosterone, and many of the effects that testosterone has in the body only happen after it is converted to DHT.
Since DHT plays such an important role in the development of male sex characteristics, DHT is not something I personally would want to remove from my body! And although Propecia does not remove DHT completely, it significantly lowers its levels.
This is the main reason why I personally prefer Minoxidil treatment that doesn’t affect DHT levels at all, although I admit Propecia is a better solution to the baldness problem because it treats the root cause of baldness which is DHT.
The most common sexual side effects caused by blocking DHT
Since DHT plays such a significant role in the development of male sexual characteristics, the removal of DHT might cause the following sexual side effects:
- Loss of interest in sex/decreased libido
- Trouble having an orgasm
- Decreased ejaculatory volume
- Swelling or tenderness in the breasts
- Less facial hair/body growth
Clinical trials on the potential sexual side effects of Propecia have shown different results. Some of them have shown that 1 percent or more of men who took Propecia have suffered from erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Other newer clinical trials do suggest however that some of these side effects are more common than originally thought in the first studies.
Merck (the drug maker of Propecia), as well as the FDA, have assured patients that these side effects would resolve once they stopped taking the drug, but that is not always the case.
In most men side effects are believed to be reversible within a year of withdrawing propecia use, but many men claim these side effects haven’t gone away, and some studies show that in some cases the complications are irreversible!
More warnings about Propecia use
Propecia is not approved for use in women and children, and especially pregnant women. In fact, it is so potent that if a pregnant woman uses Propecia, it may cause abnormalities of the external genitalia of a male fetus, because DHT is necessary for normal development of male genitalia!
Even handling a crushed or broken tablet could cause these terrible effects, since Propecia could be absorbed through the skin.
A personal note
Do you think the benefits of Propecia outweigh the potential risks? I personally do not. The side effects are simply too serious in my opinion.
I have used Propecia in the past, in fact I took it for 3 years before I decided to stop due to concerns over its side effects and long term use.
Propecia definitely improved my balding condition. It stopped hair loss completely and regrew hair in the crown area of my scalp, which is my dominant balding spot.
But I also experienced some (not all) of the side effects, for example: My facial hair growth and hair growth on my chest and arms significantly improved after I stopped taking the drug.
I use Minoxidil, which is maybe less effective than Propecia in stopping hair loss (because it doesn’t reduce DHT levels), but at least I know it is something I can use for my whole life and not worry about potential side effects and long term damage to my body.