Q: Who gets alopecia?

A. Anyone can develop alopecia; however, your chances of having alopecia are slightly greater if you have a relative with the disease. In addition, alopecia occurs more often among people who have family members with autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease.

Q: Can alopecia be cured?

A. Alopecia cannot be cured; however, it can be treated and the hair can grow back.

Q: Does the new pill to treat baldness really work?

A. It’s not going to help you grow back a full head of hair, but it can stop hair loss or stimulate additional growth in some people.

The Food and Drug Administration last December approved use of the drug finasteride (fi-NAS-tur-ide) as a treatment for male-pattern baldness. The drug was originally approved for prostate enlargement. Researchers began studying its potential for hair growth after some prostate patients with male-pattern baldness noticed hair regrowth.

The new treatment is sold under the brand name Propecia and is available by prescription only. Each pill contains 1 milligram of finasteride, compared to 5 milligrams in the prostate medication Proscar.

In clinical studies involving more than 1,800 men, finasteride caused growth of some new hair or prevented additional hair loss in about 80 percent of those taking the drug. Most men had slight to moderate improvements in new hair growth.

You have to take the drug indefinitely in order to sustain its effects. Cost is about $45 to $50 a month. Side effects can include diminished sexual drive and impotence, which occurred infrequently. These disappeared once the men quit taking the medication. The drug can also cause a falsely low prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, as can the dose used in the prostate medication.

Propecia isn’t approved for women because it causes birth defects. It also hasn’t been studied enough in women to determine its safety and effectiveness.

Taken from the Mayo Health Oasis web page.