Categorized | Medical treatment

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a drug first invented as an antihypertensive medicine.  However, during testing, a curious side effect was noticed.  Men using this drug who had early stages of male pattern hair loss noticed that their hair had started to grow back.  Since the patent for the medicine has now expired, many companies began manufacturing this drug which lowered the costs, allowing many people around the world to be treated for hair loss.  Similar to finasteride,the only other medicine that is used to treat male and female pattern baldness, minoxidil has to be used indefinitely.  Otherwise, after discontinuing treatment for two months,  hair loss will resume.

The most common form of minoxidil is a solution that is applied topically.  Men usually use a 5% concentration solution, while women use a 3% concentration solution.

How does the minoxidil work?

Currently, scientists do not have a clear picture as to how minoxidil actually promotes hair growth.  It is believed that  hair growth is promoted by the nitric oxide released by this medicine as well as the opening of potassium channels.  These two factors widen the blood vessels located in the scalp and allow for more oxygen and nutrients to reach the hair follicles.  At first, this effect causes the hair follicles in telogen phase to shed; however, this hair is soon replaced by thicker hairs in an anagen phase.

Minoxidil works  best for younger men who have experienced central (vertex) hair loss for no more than 5 years.  A large area of hair loss makes the use of minoxidil less effective.

Side effects

Minoxidil is usually well tolerated.  However, some patients may experience symptoms associated with irritation of the treated area, which includes a burning sensation, redness and itching.

Another common side effect of minoxidil is hair loss.  This hair loss is associated with shedding of the hair in the telogen phase and manufacturers do not guarantee that the hair that falls out will grow back.

People with dry or normal skin can experience dandruff or contact dermatitis as a result of using a solution of minoxidil since alcohol and propylene glycol are usually used in its manufacture.  In order to reduce this effect, some manufacturers use lipid nanosomes instead of alcohol and propylene glycol.

Users who experience symptoms of severe allergic reaction should immediately discontinue the treatment and seek medical attention.  These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Tightness and pain in the chest
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, face and mouth
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Sudden unexplained weight gain
  • Swelling of hands and feet.

An oral form of minoxidil should be avoided since, as stated above, it is an antihypertensive medicine. Moreover, side effects from using an oral form of minoxidil include swelling of extremities, lightheadedness, irregular and rapid heartbeat, cardiac lesions, and, in rare cases, necrosis of the papillary muscles located in the left ventricle.  Another rare side effect of oral minoxidil includes pseudoacromegaly. This condition causes the person to acquire acromegaloid features while the levels of growth hormone remain normal.

Application

In order to achieve maximum effect, minoxidil should be used twice per day, making sure that the hair does not get wet for 4 hours following the application.  Although this medicine promotes hair growth, it does not affect dihydrotestosterone, which is the initial cause of hair loss.  This is the reason why many people use a combination of two drugs – minoxidil and finasteride.  While minoxidil should only be applied topically, finasteride should be taken orally.  There is still debate as to whether finasteride yields results when applied topically.

In Conclusion

Minoxidil is the only other medicine aside from finasteride that has been proven to combat hair loss.  All the other medicines that claim to do so, are either scams or they weren’t tested in laboratory settings.  Regardless, either can be detrimental to your health.  Although finasteride and minoxidil have a whole array of unpleasant side effects, they are the only two options available to treat hair loss, aside from surgical treatment.