What Is the Risk of Long Term Finasteride Use?

WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Finasteride is a widely prescribed medication used to treat male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). While it has proven to be effective in slowing down hair loss and improving prostate health, there are concerns regarding the potential risks associated with long-term use of the drug.

What Is the Risk of Long-Term Finasteride Use?

The risks associated with long-term finasteride use are not fully understood, as large-scale, long-term studies are limited. However, based on available research and clinical experience, some potential risks have been identified, including sexual dysfunction, depression, and a possible increased risk of certain types of prostate cancer.

Sexual Dysfunction

One of the most well-known potential risks of long-term finasteride use is sexual dysfunction. This can include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculatory disorders. While the incidence of these side effects is relatively low (around 3-8% of users), they can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life.

In some cases, sexual dysfunction may persist even after discontinuing finasteride, a condition known as post-finasteride syndrome (PFS). However, the prevalence and long-term effects of PFS are still debated within the medical community.

Depression and Anxiety

Another potential risk associated with long-term finasteride use is an increased risk of depression and anxiety. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, it is believed that the hormonal changes caused by finasteride can affect neurotransmitter levels and potentially contribute to mood disorders.

It's important to note that individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions or a family history of depression may be at a higher risk of experiencing these side effects while taking finasteride.

Prostate Cancer Risk

There has been some debate about whether long-term finasteride use may increase the risk of developing certain types of prostate cancer, specifically high-grade prostate cancer. However, the overall risk remains low, and the evidence is not conclusive.

Some studies have suggested that finasteride may mask or delay the detection of prostate cancer, leading to a potential increase in the risk of high-grade cancers being diagnosed at a later stage. However, other studies have found no significant increase in the risk of prostate cancer with long-term finasteride use.

Other Potential Risks

In addition to the above-mentioned risks, long-term finasteride use has also been associated with other potential side effects, such as gynecomastia (breast enlargement or tenderness), allergic reactions, and an increased risk of male breast cancer, although the latter is extremely rare.

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Conclusion

While finasteride is generally considered safe and effective for treating male pattern baldness and BPH, there are potential risks associated with long-term use of the medication. These risks include sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and a possible increased risk of certain types of prostate cancer, although the evidence is not conclusive.

It's crucial for individuals considering long-term finasteride use to discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider and to carefully weigh the potential risks against the desired outcomes of treatment. Regular monitoring and open communication with healthcare professionals can help identify and manage any potential side effects or risks promptly.

Additionally, individuals who experience persistent or severe side effects after discontinuing finasteride should seek medical attention, as some conditions, like post-finasteride syndrome, may require further evaluation and treatment.

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Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.