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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(8):2196

See related article on balding in men.

What is male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness is hair loss that happens because the male hormone testosterone (say: tess-toss-ter-own) changes the hair roots.

Can male pattern baldness be treated?

Male pattern baldness doesn't have to be treated, but many men feel better about the way they look if their “bald spot” is covered. Some treatments are minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), finasteride (brand name: Propecia), hair transplants and toupees (hairpieces).

Which treatment is right for me?

This is a personal decision to make after looking at all of your options. Ask to see “before” and “after” pictures of men who have used the methods you're thinking about trying. Think about these factors: how far along your baldness is; how you feel about having surgery; the cost (both now and in the long term); and how easy it is to use.

Do these medicines cure baldness?

No. Nothing cures baldness. Two medicines can help regrow some lost hair, but not all of it. Finasteride and minoxidil usually regrow only enough hair to cover part of the bald areas. Both of these medicines work better on the crown of the head than on the front hairline.

Will minoxidil or finasteride work for me?

There is no way to predict who will respond to these medicines. It may take up to six months before you can tell if the medicine is working. Men who are younger, who have a smaller bald area and who start using the medicine early may have better results. These medicines may be most helpful for men who have just started balding.

Do these medicines have side effects?

Like all medicines, these medicines cause some side effects. A few men have had sexual side effects (a decrease in sexual urges) from finasteride that went away after they stopped taking the medicine. Minoxidil causes an itchy scalp in a few men. This also goes away when the medicine is stopped.

How do I use these medicines?

Minoxidil is sprayed on and rubbed into the scalp twice a day. Finasteride is a pill you take once a day. Both medicines must be used every day. When you stop taking either medicine, you start to lose hair again.

For more information about balding and treatments, you can visit the Web site of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation at: http://www.alopeciaareata.com or phone 415-456-4644.

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