If you’ve done any research on hair loss treatments online, you’d be aware that there are some alarming anecdotes making the rounds. Hair loss is a touchy topic, so many people turn to the internet as an information source, but sadly misinformation is rife when it comes to hair loss treatment.
When discussing hair loss treatments with people, the questions we get the most often are about side effects. It’s completely fair to have concerns, and you should always consider the risk of side effects before getting on any medication. Minor risks exist with any medication, and the same goes for hair loss treatment.
Nothing beats a discussion with a health professional, but in the meantime, we asked our resident online doctor, Dr Harry, to answer your burning questions on the topic.
But first, let’s do a brief overview of the treatments in question.
What are the medical treatments for hair loss?
There are two approved and effective medical treatments for hair loss. These clinically proven treatments have been on the market for decades, have gone through rigorous testing and are deemed safe to use.
If you’ve looked into hair loss medication before, you probably already know their names. If not, a GP or a dermatologist can tell you more. Due to Australian law on medical advertising, we can’t mention the names of these treatments, so let’s refer to them as “treatment A” and “treatment B”.
Treatment A reverses the miniaturisation of hair follicles and stimulates growth through increased blood flow. It helps move hairs to the growth phase of the hair life cycle and keeps them there longer. Treatment A is suitable for both men and women. The risk of side effects is minimal, and they don’t sound as scary as treatment B, so most people aren’t concerned about it.
Treatment B is what’s called a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. It prevents hair loss by blocking DHT, a hormone that is responsible for male pattern baldness, and therefore is only prescribed to men. Many men opt for a combination of treatments A and B for best results. There are many persistent rumours about the side effects of treatment B, which is why we’ll focus on it in the questions.
In general, the risk of side effects for both treatments is low. Most people reap all the benefits of successful hair loss treatment with little to no undesired results.
Now, let’s get into frequently asked questions about the side effects of treatment B.
Hair loss treatment side effects – Q&A with Dr Harry
Dr Harry is the resident hair loss doctor at the Gro Online Clinic. He’s an internationally recognised medical practitioner, optometrist, university professor and scientist. Dr Harry provided some short and sharp, no-nonsense answers to your most burning questions on side effects to help stop the rumour mill.
Q: What are the side effects of [treatment B] and how common are they?
A: The most commonly reported side effect is reduced libido. Other side effects reported include erectile dysfunction and mood disturbance.
Studies that have evaluated the prevalence of side effects have found the side effect rate to be between 1 and 2%. In these same studies, the side effect rate in the control (placebo) group was two-thirds of that of the treatment group.
Q: Will I lose my libido if I take it?
A: Almost certainly not. Though it depends on your age and the dose being taken, the side effect rate for [treatment B] is about one in a hundred.
Q: Does it cause erectile dysfunction?
A: Yes, it can cause ED, although this is an uncommon side effect.
Q: Does it affect mood?
A: Yes, it can affect mood, although this is a rare side effect. Having said that, [treatment B] should be avoided in men with a history of severe depression.
Q: Does it lower testosterone?
A: [Treatment B] has no impact on the production or function of testosterone.
Q: Can [treatment B] actually regrow hair?
A: Yes, most men that take [treatment B] not only slow or stop their hair loss but also regrow hair.
Q: Are the side effects permanent?
A: There have been some reported cases of permanent side effects but the risk of it is vanishingly rare. In the overwhelming majority of cases the side effects stop when the person stops taking the medication.
Q: Is it worth the risk of side effects?
A: Yes! Given the low side effect rate and the outstanding results that are achieved on [treatment B], it’s definitely worth giving it a try.
Q: How can a doctor help manage and/or lower the risk of side effects?
A: Our doctors lower the risk of side effects by assessing who should and shouldn’t take [treatment B] in the first place. If side effects do occur, they occur within 2 weeks. In this case, the options are to lower the dose, change from oral to topical medication (although this is substantially less effective), or to cease the medication altogether. In the vast majority of cases, the side effects disappear when the person stops taking the medication.
The perks of medical treatment for hair loss
Hair loss can be extremely distressing – seeing hair on your pillow, worrying about people noticing your bald spot or your mates making jokes about your receding hairline… For many hair loss sufferers, the mental health toll is real. Treatment that slows down, stops or even reverts hair loss can ease the worry.
Early prevention may give you years or even decades longer with a full head of hair, but whether that’s the right choice for you is highly individual. Successful hair loss treatment requires commitment and consistency – you must be willing to stick to the habit of taking medication to maintain your mop. Seeing the full results can take from three months up to a year.
There’s nothing wrong with grabbing the clippers and embracing hair loss, but if keeping your hair would make you happier, it’s worth it to consider your options. Speaking with a licensed medical professional who can answer your questions and offer informed advice is the first step.
Medical treatment has its limitations, too. If your hairline has already receded a fair bit, you might want to look into a hair transplant. Our minimally-invasive surgical interventions use your natural hair follicles to regrow your hair.
Got more questions?
If there’s more weighing on your mind, you can always book in a free consultation with our online clinic. These sessions give you access to prescription hair loss medication through a registered Australian hair loss doctor who can answer any and all of your questions on hair loss – 100% online.