A vasodilator is a type of medication that is designed to dilate blood vessels, meaning that it causes the blood vessels to open for better blood flow. They are typically prescribed to correct high blood pressure, but have some alternate uses as well.
This type of medication keeps the muscles that line your arteries from tightening. If the muscles tighten, the artery wall narrows in response. This makes the heart pump harder, and is what can cause the blood pressure to raise. With vasodilators, however, the artery wall muscles are slack and relaxed, and the blood can flow through the arteries uninhibited. Since the blood is flowing more easily, the heart does not have to pump as hard. Since the heart is not pumping as hard, the blood pressure lowers as a result.
Certain vasodilators, such as Minoxidil, are known to stimulate hair growth. These effects have been well-documented since the late 1980s. However, even after all of these years, the exact mechanism responsible for this hair growth has yet to be identified. The general hypothesis is that the increase in blood flow causes dormant follicles to reconnect with the dermal papillae, which are structures located under the follicle that provide a blood supply to the hair bulb. Once the hair follicle is reconnected with the dermal papillae (and therefore, the blood supply), it can go on to generate new and healthier hairs. Again, this has yet to be officially proven in any clinical trial.
Minoxidil was originally created as a way to decrease blood pressure, but has since been used to combat hair loss “off the label”. 2% and 5% formulations of Minoxidil were created specifically with hair loss in mind. The 2% has been clinically proven to stimulate hair follicles to regrow hair, but the 5% is even more potent. However, the chance of developing side effects also increases by using the stronger version.
A vasodilator is often prescribed in combination with another class of medication called diuretics in order to enhance its overall effect. Diuretics are a class of medication that causes the kidneys to produce more urine, which in turn removes the excess salt from the body and causes the blood pressure to lower.
There are three types of diuretics altogether, but if you are experiencing high blood pressure, a physician will most likely prescribe either a loop diuretic, or a potassium-sparing diuretic. Both loop and potassium-sparing diuretics reduce the blood pressure through frequent urination, though a potassium-sparing diuretic prevents the kidneys from removing potassium – a potassium deficiency can wreak havoc on the body in a large number of ways. The tradeoff is that loop-sparing diuretics have a greater effect on lowering the blood pressure than the potassium-sparing version, so a physician would use them in more critical situations where relief is greatly needed. Diuretics can also have an effect on hair loss in that it increases hair loss on patients that already are experiencing hair loss. It has also been known to initiate hair loss in those that are not already suffering from hair loss. A doctor can answer more questions about this correlation so be sure to ask if a diuretic is prescribed long term.