How to Reduce the Side Effects of Finasteride

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Estimates indicate that over 80% of men will experience some form of hair loss within their lifetime. Whilst some may not be concerned about the possibility of balding, others turn to advances in science, medicine, and technology, in an effort to keep or restore their hairline.

Despite being one of the most effective treatments in order to combat the advancement of male pattern baldness or MPB, the drug known as finasteride is often anecdotally associated with having an array of undesirable side effects. 

Symptoms such as erectile dysfunction (ED), decreased ejaculation, and loss of libido have been reported in relation to finasteride use. Even though less than 10% of users will experience side effects of any kind, it’s understandable that some men feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to beginning a treatment protocol to combat the effects of MPB.

The choice can be mistakenly associated to being stuck between a rock and a (not so) hard place – keep the hair, or the erection?

If you’re amongst the men eager to fight the battle against a receding hairline – whilst keeping a healthy sexual appetite – a closer look at the science behind finasteride treatment offers encouraging news.


How finasteride works

Commonly sold under the brand name Propecia, finasteride tablets work by blocking the enzyme 5a-Reductase (the enzyme which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT)). Since DHT causes hair follicles to shrink, inhibiting the body’s production of the hormone effectively reduces the advancement of male pattern hair loss. A decrease in DHT may also allow hair follicles to regrow to a point where new hair emerges, making finasteride one of the only known treatments that can reverse hair loss.

 

The truth about finasteride and side effects

Side effects an individual encounters when taking Propecia are typically reversible. Finasteride has a short half-life, meaning the drug doesn’t stay in a user’s system for very long. In fact, the medication must be taken daily as part of a hair restoration protocol in order to be effective. 

As a result, an individual experiencing any sexual function side effects should see them disappear after discontinuing the medication

What’s more, studies have shown millions of patients have benefited from treatment with no adverse reaction at all. 

If you’re amongst the concerned men looking to mitigate minimal and reversible finasteride side effects, here are some lifestyle considerations that can help.

 

Can you reduce the chances of side effects?

Following these protocols may help to eliminate the risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction side effects when taking Propecia or finasteride:

1. Maintain a healthy diet.

The adage ‘you are what you eat’ has stood the test of time for a reason. A balanced nutritional intake, rich in vitamins and minerals will help you maintain a healthy weight. After all, obesity is a large contributor a decreased libido and the onset of ED. Consuming plenty of oily fish, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and berries will help promote healthy blood flow and increase your sexual appetite.


2. Exercise.

Movement – be it cardiovascular or resistance training – is an effective way to keep the blood flowing around your sexual organs. Research indicates that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may improve patient-reported erectile dysfunction. 

 

3. Adhere to the correct dosage.

Following your healthcare professional’s recommended dosage can ensure that any side effects you encounter whilst taking the medication will likely settle after a short duration. Persistent sexual side effects could be attributed to an incorrect amount of the drug being ingested over a period of time.


4. Purchase your medication from a reputable source.

Before beginning a treatment protocol for hair loss, thinning or MPB, it is always a good idea to consult a physician or healthcare professional. They will be able to determine if the medication is right for you and can point you toward a reputable dispensary or pharmacy to obtain your prescription.

 

Can you take finasteride every other day or split the tablet to make 0.5mg?

The dose of finasteride for hair loss is 1mg every day. Some men find that taking finasteride every other day, or three times a week, works for them. This is spoken about on forums such as Reddit, where users take to share their opinions and experiences. The licensed dose is based on evidence and is most likely to yield desirable results. 

If you wish to take a tablet every other day, this may work for you, but you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist. Remember, finasteride has a short half-life and exits the body relatively quickly. To get the most out of your treatment, you’ll need to ensure you’re maintaining adequate levels of the drug in your system.

In relation to splitting a 1mg tablet, studies have shown that 0.5mg will lower DHT levels (the hormone responsible for shrinking hair follicles and causing hair loss), at around 80% of the level that the 1mg tablet does. This is a disproportionate decrease.

It is also important to note that finasteride tablets are cytotoxic, which means they should not be chewed or crushed, especially if remnants of the pill could come into contact with a female of child bearing potential.


The Bottom Line

  • Finasteride treatment is effective in halting the effects of androgenic alopecia.
  • When taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional, finasteride 1 mg tablets are not commonly associated with a risk of persistent sexual dysfunction.
  • Most men will be able to enjoy the results of finasteride tablets for hair loss without experiencing sexual health side effects.
  • Studies show that side effects are resolved when treatment is stopped.
  • Taking certain measures can reduce your chances of suffering a decrease in sex drive or the inability to achieve an erection.
  • Lowering the dose of your finasteride medication may also reverse side effects.
  • If you’re uncertain about how or when to start or alter your treatment, consult your doctor.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.