What treatments are there for hair loss in men?
The hair loss of male pattern baldness is permanent. No treatment is required if the person is comfortable with the appearance. There are two drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat male-pattern baldness: minoxidil and finasteride (Propecia).
Minoxidil lotion (Regaine Regular Strength and Regaine Extra Strength) is applied twice daily to the scalp. Minoxidil was originally invented as a treatment for high blood pressure; the hair growth is a side effect that, in this case, has proved useful. It is not available on NHS prescription, but can be purchased over-the-counter. About 60 per cent of patients benefit from it to varying degrees and its effects start to wear off as soon as it is stopped.
Finasteride is the only oral medication that is approved by FDA for male pattern baldness. It inhibits the production of the hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness. About 50% of men who take this drug have increased hair growth in one year. Finasteride (Propecia) is a medicine taken in tablet form that partially blocks the effects of the male hormones (an 'anti-androgen'). It is used in a higher dose to reduce the size of the prostate gland in men with benign prostatic hypertrophy. Propecia has been shown to halt further hair loss and promote re-growth of scalp hair in approximately 80 per cent of patients after three to six months. Treatment must be continued to sustain the improvement in hair growth. In general, it is more effective than minoxidil. It has no major effect on testosterone level in the body. About 2 percent of the men who take this drug experience sexual dysfunction.
Hair transplants consist of removal of tiny plugs of hair from areas where the hair is continuing to grow and placing them in areas that are balding. This can cause minor scarring in the donor areas and carries a modest risk for skin infection. The procedure usually requires multiple transplantation sessions and may be expensive. Results, however, are often excellent and permanent. Suturing of hair pieces to the scalp is not recommended as it can result in scars, infections, and abscess of the scalp. The use of hair implants made of artificial fibers was banned by the FDA because of the high rate of infection. Hair weaving, hairpieces, or change of hairstyle may disguise the hair loss. This is usually the least expensive and safest treatment for male pattern baldness.