A growing number of men who have taken finasteride, the active drug in Propecia and Proscar, have suffered persistent physical and emotional side effects.
Millions of men suffer from male pattern baldness, a genetic condition that causes hair-loss in 50-60% of the male population. Many men take a prescription medication called Propecia, which contains 1-mg of finasteride. Finasteride was initially developed as a way to shrink enlarged male prostate, and was sold in 5-mg doses under the brand-name Proscar.
When Propecia was approved by the U.S, there was already scientific evidence linking finasteride to sexual dysfunction. Merck & Co. and the FDA estimated that around 2% of men would suffer sexual side effects while taking finasteride, and they assured men that normal sexual health would resolve soon after discontinuing finasteride. However, it appears now that finasteride sexual side effects may be far more severe that were previously anticipated.
Post-Finasteride Syndrome (PFS) Overview
Men who are suffering from severe, persistent sexual health problems are calling their disorder Post-Finasteride Syndrome (PFS). This disorder is characterized by persistent changes to body hormone chemistry that can cause sexual dysfunction, depression, and other side effects. Men who suffer from PFS suffer a massive drop in testosterone levels, hypogonadism (sex glands produce little or no hormones), and are resistant to treatments to correct the condition.
Finasteride treats baldness and enlarged prostate by inhibiting a normal enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme is used by the body to convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In men who have a genetic predisposition, DHT tells hair follicles to shut down. By inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, finasteride effectively decreases DHT levels by as much as 70%, and stops hair loss.
This effectively alters the balance of hormones in a man’s body. Unfortunately, inhibiting DHT can have serious negative consequences for a man’s sexual health. DHT is involved in health male libido, physical structure of the penis, fertility, and it also balances the female sex hormone estrogen.
Side Effects of Post-Finasteride Syndrome
Some men taking finasteride have suffered an increase the level of estrogen in a man’s body. This leads to a condition called gynecomastia, characterized by excessive growth of the male breast tissue. This side effect is associated with an increased risk of male breast cancer.
In addition, the hormonal changes make major changes to the prostate. Finasteride was originally developed as a way to shrink prostate. It can cause changes to the prostate in men who normally had a healthy prostate. The prostate is an endocrine gland in the male reproductive system, responsible for producing 20-30% of semen volume. The prostate requires male hormones to function properly.
Finasteride can cause prostatic involution, characterized by atrophy and cell death in the prostate. In some men, this results in decreased semen volume, decrease in penis size, erectile dysfunction, penile fibrosis, possible nerve damage, and more.
In some men, finasteride also makes changes to neurosteroids that normally have antidepressant effects. Deprived of these normal neurosteroids, some men taking finasteride have suffered anxiety, confusion, and depression. Depression can be very difficult to treat and has led to suicide.