Effectiveness of medications for treating alopecia will depend upon cause of hair loss, extent of the loss and individual response to the medication. It has been observed that a treatment is less effective if hair loss is extensive. Very few drugs are approved by FDA for the treatment of the alopecia. These include –
- Minoxidil - It is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication and is given for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata. It is available at the pharmacy store without any prescription. Minoxidil is generally available in liquid or foam that one needs to rub into scalp twice daily to grow hair and to prevent further loss. Depending on individual to individual it can lead to hair regrowth or can minimize the hair loss. Minoxidil is available in a 2 percent solution and in a 5 percent solution. New hair grown by minoxidil use are thinner and shorter than previous hair but those may be enough to hide baldness particularly spots as they mix up with existing hairs, but the results highly vary from one individual to another. After discontinuation of minoxidil the new hair growth is stopped. Results may be visible as soon as 12 weeks as it will take some time for new hair to start growing. If results are optimal within six months one can discontinue the use of the drug. Common side effect is irritation of the scalp.
- Finasteride - This medicine is used to treat male-pattern baldness and is available only on prescription. It is taken daily in tablet form. Many patients may experience slowing of hair loss after taking finasteride while others may show some new hair growth. Positive results may require treatment for several months. Finasteride stops the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which affects hair follicles and leads to male hair loss. Side effects may include altered sex drive and sexual function. Benefits will last till the drug is used and after discontinuation no benefits will be there. Females are not recommended the drug. It can lead to many fetal abnormalities if taken by the pregnant women.
- Corticosteroids - Alopecia Areata can be treated by Injecting cortisone into the scalp every month. These drugs modify the immune response of the body and prevent hair loss due to Alopecia Areata. Drug can also be used in for of tablets, ointments and creams but they may be less effective as compared to the injectable form. Hair growth may be visible in few weeks after the injection.
- Anthralin - It is a synthetic substance and can lead to new hair growth in cases of alopecia areata. It is generally available in form of ointments that needs to be applied directly to scalp. It is also used to treat psoriasis and also used in other skin conditions.