Finasteride Side Effects And How To Avoid Them
Are you considering taking finasteride for hair loss? It’s normal to be concerned about any potential side effects before taking the medication.
In this article, we’ll look closely at the side effects of finasteride, a treatment for male pattern baldness, the most common form of hair loss. We’ll discuss whether finasteride is safe, how long finasteride side effects last, and what you can do to prevent them.
Finasteride Side Effects
As with any drug, there are potential side effects that can occur while taking finasteride, so it's important to be aware of them before starting the treatment. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new medication as they will be able to give you the best advice.
Finasteride reduces levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the natural hormone in your body. A decrease in DHT can reduce the rate of hair loss and even result in hair regrowth.
Because DHT causes the prostate (the small gland that produces the fluid that transports and nourishes sperm) to grow, reduced levels may result in common mild side effects such as:
- A lower libido (lack of interest in sex)
- Ejaculating a decreased amount of semen when you have sex
These mild side effects occur in more than 1 in 100 people. If any of these side effects worry you or persist, speak to your doctor.
Rarer, moderate to serious side effects, may include:
- Pain, swelling or lumps in the chest region, or the release of fluid (discharge) from your nipples, which could be symptoms of a more serious condition like breast cancer
- Feeling unusually low, depressed and having thoughts about harming yourself
These side effects are experienced by less than 1 in 1,000 people. If you experience these side effects, speak to your doctor immediately.
If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction — including swelling, itching, a rash, breathing problems or dizziness — seek immediate medical help.
How Long Do Finasteride Side Effects Last?
The majority of finasteride side effects are temporary and may improve after you stop taking the treatment.
However, there is a small minority of potential side effects that could develop into long-term conditions. Finasteride has the potential to cause lasting side effects — including depression or breast cancer — which can continue when you’ve stopped taking the medication.
Finasteride Long-Term Side Effects
Finasteride is generally safe to take for a long time. Many people take it for many months or even years without any problems. However, potential long-term effects can occur. A side effect can be considered long-term if it is caused by a condition or reaction that could continue for months, or even years.
Long term-effects are rare, and may include:
- Depression – there have been reports of men experiencing depression and even suicidal thoughts while taking finasteride. However, a review of persistent sexual dysfunction and depression in finasteride users for male pattern hair loss found there to be little evidence of patients suffering from persistent depression
- Breast cancer – although a recent study has found that finasteride doesn’t increase the risk of male breast cancer, a review of clinical trial data has concluded that “an increased risk of male breast cancer associated with finasteride use cannot be excluded”
Speak to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any symptoms of these conditions, or if you are concerned about them, before taking the medication.
Does Finasteride Affect Fertility?
If you’re planning to start a family, speak to your doctor before taking finasteride. A small amount of the medication can pass into your semen and may harm your unborn baby. There have been reports of men’s test results that indicated poor sperm quality or infertility while taking finasteride, although this is a rare side effect.
Even if you have stopped finasteride, it takes time for the medication to wear off. If you stopped taking finasteride recently and are trying for a baby, speak to your doctor.
Can Finasteride Cause Cancer?
Finasteride is generally considered to be a safe drug, but there have been some reports of breast cancer in some men. However, these reports are rare.
You should speak to your doctor if you notice any changes in your chest area, such as lumps, pain, swelling or discharge from your nipples.
While finasteride decreases the size of your prostate, it does not increase your risk of getting prostate cancer.
Is Finasteride Safe?
Finasteride is generally considered safe, especially for long-term use. That’s provided:
- You are an eligible candidate for finasteride
- You aren't allergic to finasteride
- You aren't taking any medication that may interact with finasteride (see a full list of drugs interactions with finasteride here)
- You take finasteride exactly as prescribed
It's important to speak to your healthcare provider before starting to take finasteride.
What Happens If You Stop Taking Finasteride?
Remember to contact your healthcare professional before you stop taking finasteride. When you stop taking the medication, there may be side effects such as a return of your hair loss or enlarged prostate.
When stopping, it may be best to reduce your finasteride dose gradually over a few weeks. Your healthcare provider will be able to guide you on the best way to stop taking finasteride.
How To Reduce Side Effects Of Finasteride
Not everyone will experience side effects from finasteride, but as we have covered, there is some degree of risk.
There are numerous ways that you can help to avoid or reduce finasteride side effects, and we’ll conclude this article with some tips:
- Take the correct dosage
- Take the medication on the correct day
- Ensure your doctor knows about all potential interactions with any medication you are taking and medical conditions that you have before you start taking finasteride
- Ensure you are a suitable candidate (several health conditions may make you unsuitable for finasteride)
- Speak to your doctor for advice before stopping the medication