What is Proscar?
Originally marketed by Merck Pharmaceuticals, Proscar is the brand name for finasteride. It was approved for the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) by the FDA in 1992, though it has some “off the label uses” as well.
Proscar and Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is a condition that only occurs in males. It is the enlargement of the prostate gland, which occurs naturally in all males over time, but can become a problem for some men as they grow older. If the prostate becomes too enlarged, it can impinge on the bladder and prevent urination. When a person is unable to properly void their bladder, they can develop bladder stones, bladder infections, urinary tract infections, and damage to the bladder and kidneys. Therefore, symptoms arising from BPH are serious, and should be addressed as soon as they begin to affect a person’s quality of life. Prostate growth is regulated by a male sex hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Unfortunately, there is no way for DHT to stop signaling for the prostate to grow, so the prostate will continue to enlarge for the duration of a male’s lifespan.
Proscar, however, is able to prevent an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase from metabolizing testosterone into DHT. By blocking the testosterone from converting into DHT, the levels of DHT can be reduced, which will reverse the prostate’s growth. All medications with this ability are known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors.
A 1998 study states that one year of Proscar can reduce the size of the prostate by as much as 22%. The study recommends that Proscar can be safely taken for the rest of a person’s life under most circumstances. If a person stops taking Proscar, the DHT levels can increase again, which will cause the prostate to resume growth.
Proscar and Hair Loss Prevention
DHT is also the sex hormone responsible for causing hair loss, mostly in males. DHT gathers in the scalp’s tissues, which chokes the hair follicle from the blood supply over time. This causes the hair follicle to shrink (a process called miniaturization), producing hairs that become thinner and thinner over time until the follicle can produce hairs no longer. This does not happen to all people, but rather only those with a genetic predisposition for male pattern hair loss (MPH).
Physicians recommend that a person should quarter their Proscar tablets if they wish to combat MPH. This dosage is enough to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase responsible for generating DHT. With less DHT in the system, the hair follicle can receive nourishment from the blood supply once more, and begin to grow healthy hairs again. You should not take more than the recommended dosage unless your doctor specifically give you clearance to do so. Although some doctors note that an increase in dosage can mean an increase in hair thickening the potential for side effects, particularly sexual side effects, can increase as well.
Can Women Take Proscar?
No, they should not. Due to their physiological makeup, women risk a greater chance of developing a hormonal imbalance from Proscar than men (or from taking any form of finasteride, for that matter). In fact, pregnant women should avoid physically handling the tablets altogether, as it may be absorbed through the skin and can actually cause genitalia defects in male fetuses. Post menapausal women however can sometimes take Proscar or Propecia with favorable results if they are having male patterned hair loss which can affect women.