Dutasteride For Hair Loss: Dosage and Side Effects

man looking into mirror pulling back his hair to examine his receding hairline

Dutasteride is an FDA-approved medication that is used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and male pattern hair loss. While Dutasteride is only FDA-approved to treat BPH, it is commonly perscribed “off label” for treating men with hair loss. Dutasteride works by blocking the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which in turn reduces the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your scalp. DHT is a hormone that shrinks hair follicles, leading to thinning hair and eventually baldness. By reducing DHT levels, dutasteride can help slow or even stop further hair loss and may even promote new growth.

 

In this article we will discuss the commonly used dosages and potential side effects of dutasteride for hair loss.

Dutasteride for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Although Dutasteride is commonly prescribed to treat male pattern baldness, this is technically considered an “off-label” use of this medication. Dutasteride is actually FDA approved for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition which causes an enlarged prostate.

 

Men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia can experience issues related to prostate enlargement, including problems with urinary flow, erection decrease, decreased libido, and other side effects. Clinical studies have shown that Dutasteride can treat BPH. A 2013 study published in the journal Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy suggested that Dutasteride is an effective treatment for prostate enlargement and can improve symptoms as it significantly reduces prostate volume in some patients.

Treating Hair Loss with Dutasteride

close up of hand holding a magnifying glass to examine the scalp of a person with short brown hair

Dutasteride is commonly prescribed as a medication used to treat male pattern hair loss. Studies have shown that patients with androgenetic alopecia are more likely to stop hair loss and start regrowing hair when they begin taking dutasteride. While there are other medications, such as finasteride and minoxidil, that are specifically FDA-approved for treating hair loss – there is some reason to believe that dutasteride could be just as effective for treating hair loss.

Dutasteride Mechanism of Action

Dutasteride works by inhibiting the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is responsible for converting testosterone into the androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a hormone that shrinks hair follicles, leading to thinning hair and ultimately baldness. By reducing DHT levels, dutasteride can help slow or even stop further hair loss and may even promote new hair growth.

 

The way that Dutasteride blocks DHT production is similar to how Finasteride combats hair loss. Both finasteride and dutasteride can be used to decrease the presence of androgenic sex hormones, including DHT, as a way of protecting hair follicles. These DHT blocking medications can be a particularly useful tool for regrowing hair, especially in individuals who have scalp hair that is sensitive to androgens.

Can Dutasteride Treat Male Pattern Baldness?

male patient having a bald spot on the back of his scalp examined by a dermatologist

Male pattern baldness is a type of baldness that mostly affects men. It is caused by hormones that make the hair follicles shrink. This makes the hair thin and eventually fall out. Studies show that a combination of medications, including dutasteride, can be effective in treating this type of hair loss.

 

In a randomized, placebo controlled, phase III study, oral Dutasteride was used to treat a group of men with male pattern baldness. In the study, some men were given a daily placebo pill and some were given daily 0.5mg pills of Dutasteride (brand name “Avodart”). The patients that took oral dutasteride, showed significantly less hair thinning than the group taking placebo – suggesting that dutasteride can be effectively used for the treatment of hair loss.

Dutasteride and Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic Alopecia (also known as androgenic alopecia) is disease that causes hair thinning and hair loss in people who have scalp hairs with a sensitivity to the androgen hormone DHT. When there are high levels of DHT present on the scalp, it can make hair follicles shrink, which leads to thinning hair and eventually hair loss. The symptoms of androgenetic alopecia can vary depending on the person, but may include scalp hair thinning, a decrease in overall hair volume, bald patches, or a receding hairline.

 

Fortunately, Dutasteride is a medication that helps with blocking DHT production, thus lowering DHT levels on the scalp. Like other hair loss medications, Dutasteride contains 5 alpha reductase inhibitors, which prevent the enzyme responsible for making DHT out of testosterone.

Dutasteride vs Finasteride

a doctor on a white background holding a prescription pill bottle towards the camera

Doctors prescribe Finasteride and Dutasteride commonly for treating male pattern baldness. Both finasteride and dutasteride are 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. They work by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, which is a hormone responsible for thinning hair and baldness.

 

The effectiveness of oral dutasteride compared to oral finasteride has been studied. A 2017 systematic review study concluded that in some studies oral dutasteride was shown to be more effective in treating androgenetic alopecia than oral finasteride. This study also concluded that the side effects of dutasteride were “comparable” to finasteride side effects. Although this is just one of many published studies, it suggests that when comparing dutasteride vs finasteride for treatment of hair loss in men, dutasteride may be the better option.

Oral Minoxidil vs Oral Dutasteride

Topical minoxidil and oral minoxidil are both prescribed by health care professionals for treating male pattern baldness. Oral minoxidl is less commonly used to treat hair loss in men and women than topical minoxidil because of the side effects associated with the oral version. Generally, patients prescribed topical minoxidil will see less common and less severe side effects than patients using oral minoxidil as a hair loss treatment.

 

However, recent studies have shown that low doses of oral minoxidil can effectively treat hair loss in some patients in a relatively safe manner. If you are experiencing hair loss, it may be worth speaking with your healthcare provider to determine whether oral minoxidil or oral dutasteride would be a better option for stimulating hair growth.

 

Each medication has it’s pros and cons, including potential adverse reactions. Oral dutasteride can’t be used by a pregnant woman and can lead to sexual dysfunction (including erectile dysfunction) in some men. Meanwhile, taking minoxidil orally creates an increased risk for sodium and fluid retention in the body.

Dutasteride and Prostate Cancer Risk

The use of Dutasteride has been studied for its potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. A 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined whether or not dutasteride inhibits the formation of prostate cancer. In this 4-year study, men with a medical history that put them at risk for prostate cancer, were given either placebo or oral dutasteride (dosage 0.5 mg) daily for 4 consecutive years. After the study was finished, it was noted that the dutasteride group of men has significantly less incidences of prostate cancer than the placebo group.

Topical Minoxidil and Oral Dutasteride

side view of man with brown hair applying a dropper of solution to his scalp

When it comes to treating male pattern baldness, dutasteride is sometimes prescribed to be used alone or in combination with other medications. A healthcare provider may prescribe topical minoxidil (Rogaine) along with oral Dutasteride. Minoxidil helps stimulate the hair follicles and promote new hair growth, while dutasteride works to reduce the production of DHT, which can prevent further hair loss.

Topical Dutasteride for Hair Loss

Dutasteride has traditionally been prescribed as an oral prescription drug but is recently being investigated for topical use. There is currently very little published research on using dutasteride topically as a hair loss treatment. However, there are currently some compounding pharmacies that market topical dutasteride products as a way to treat hair loss. There is also some recent research about topical dutasteride for hair growth.

 

Because oral dutasteride is prescribed for male pattern baldness conditions, a healthcare provider may be unwilling to prescribe topical dutasteride to women with androgenic alopecia.

Dutasteride Dosage for Hair Loss

The recommended dose for treating male pattern hair loss with Dutasteride is usually 0.5 mg per day, taken either as a single dose or split into two doses each day. It usually takes several months before any hair regrowth is seen, so it’s important to remain patient and continue taking the medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Dutasteride Side Effects

Like all medications, dutasteride can have side effects. These side effects range from benign to serious and will vary from patient to patient.

 

The most common side effects associated with dutasteride are sexual problems, including decreased libido, decreased sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. Some side effects of oral dutasteride also include decreased ejaculate volume and breast tenderness or enlargement in men. The risk of these side effects increases if you take higher doses for longer periods of time.

 

Other rare but serious side effects include:

 

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular breathing
  • swelling in the face, feet, or fingers
  • allergic reactions

Patients who experience any of these series side effects while taking dutasteride should immediately stop use and seek medical attention. It’s important to talk to your healthcare providers about all potential risks before beginning treatment with dutasteride.

Pregnancy and Dutasteride

happy pregnant woman eating salad in bed

Dutasteride is not recommended for use in pregnant women due to the potential risk of birth defects. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid any contact with dutasteride, including touching a broken or leaking capsule.

Dutasteride Drug Interactions

Dutasteride may interact with other medications, including certain antibiotics and antifungal medications. It is important to tell your healthcare provider about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, before beginning treatment with dutasteride.

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