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Oral Minoxidil for Hair Loss: 9 Things You Need to Know
Minoxidil is an oral medication which has been increasingly recognised by Dermatologists as a convenient way of treating hair loss. Oral Minoxidil is generally considered a treatment for hair loss in males and females if the topical minoxidil has caused an allergy, rash or irritation. Sometimes, topical minoxidil can also cause poor hair texture which can make your hair prone to breakage and hence, oral minoxidil is recommended.
Minoxidil is an ingredient that has been prescribed widely the dermatologists. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved oral minoxidil for hair loss. Is it still safe to take these pills for hair loss? Here are the nine most important things that you need to know about the usage of oral minoxidil for hair loss.
Oral Minoxidil is used to Treat High Blood Pressure
Though this medication is increasingly used off-label for hair loss, oral minoxidil was originally approved by the FDA in the later 1970s as a prescription medication for severe hypertension or high blood pressure. An unexpected side effect of this drug was excessive hair growth.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), oral minoxidil developers saw the potential in this side effect and reformulated it into a topical treatment for hair loss. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that oral minoxidil is only used for severe cases of hypertension when patients generally don't respond to other medications or have kidney failure.
Oral Minoxidil is not an FDA-Approved Treatment for Hair Loss
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved oral medication for high blood pressure and a topical medication to treat hair loss. However, the drug is not FDA-approved when taken orally for hair loss. This makes oral minoxidil an off-label treatment for hair loss.
One should understand the risk factors associated with prescribing oral minoxidil. People with underlying chronic health issues like kidney, heart and liver should avoid taking oral minoxidil. Additionally, if you are pregnant or trying to conceive or have any ailments like porphyria, pheochromocytomas and low blood pressure, you should avoid taking this treatment for hair loss.
Minoxidil may help in Hair Growth but comes with side Effects
Topical minoxidil may stimulate hair growth or slow balding in males and females when applied to the scalp once or twice a day. These scalp treatments may be beneficial for people under 40. As per the data released by the Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research, some clinical trials of topical minoxidil in males and females have reported an increase in hair thickness in the areas of hair loss. Nevertheless, topical minoxidil has its disadvantages and may not work for all types of hair loss.
This treatment may have side effects such as scalp stickiness, itching, inflammation or rashes. Side effects may be uncommon when minoxidil is taken in low doses to treat hair loss. However, some people may experience fast heart rate, temporary shedding, excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis), ankle swelling, fluid retention and headaches.
Lack of Research on Oral Minoxidil for Hair Loss
Some studies are available which may suggest the use of oral minoxidil for hair loss, but there isn't any high-quality research that may support this statement. The majority of the studies have noted that oral minoxidil could be an effective and well-tolerated alternative to topical minoxidil, but have added that controlled studies to prove the same are essential.
The limited research which is available on oral minoxidil suggests that people may notice improved hair growth in six months or more and it's advised to take this treatment for six to twelve months. The research is not statistically significant to prove that oral minoxidil has less hair shedding or increases hair density for women and men.
No standard Dosage for Oral Minoxidil
Oral minoxidil is available in 2.5 mg, 5 mg and 10 mg tablets. Generally, dermatologists may suggest a starting dose of 0.625 mg per day for women and 1.25 mg for men per day. However, the optimum dose for effective hair loss may not be stated with confirmation.
Limited sample studies have been published on oral minoxidil and hence, there is a lack of information on the safe amount of minoxidil when taken as an off-label treatment. Dermatologists may suggest doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 5 mg for hair loss, but it may vary from person to person as per the need.
Can have Serious Side Effects
Side effects may not be a huge concern with topical treatments as they target a single area of the body. But, oral minoxidil may cause some severe side effects like acne, blurred vision and chest pain along with itching or skin rashes on the scalp. People with low blood pressure or cardiovascular health conditions should avoid taking oral minoxidil as it is an FDA-approved medication for treating high blood pressure and may affect cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, according to the Mayo Clinic, minoxidil pills may cause excessive fluid buildup around the heart. Minoxidil should be avoided if you have pulmonary hypertension with mitral stenosis, severe hepatic impairment, left ventricular hypertrophy, heart attack or heart failure.
Not Safe to use During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive, you should avoid taking oral minoxidil. The drug traces can pass into breast milk and affect the baby. Women may opt for other medications for hair loss after consulting their healthcare provider if they are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy in near future.
Can Cause Hair Growth in Other Areas
Oral minoxidil may cause an increase in body hair around the face, eyebrows, hairline, temples, under the eye and back of the arms and shoulders. Some of the users may continue to take oral minoxidil due to its positive effect on their scalp but may have to go for laser or electrolysis treatment to remove the unwanted hair growth in other areas.
Additionally, the higher dose of oral minoxidil may result in higher levels of this drug in the blood and may increase the potential for side effects. One needs to monitor the heart rate and blood pressure weekly after starting the pill and report to the dermatologist immediately if one experiences symptoms of low blood pressure.
Minoxidil isn't the Only Hair Loss Treatment
According to AAD, hair loss treatments may differ for men and women and a wide variety of options are available besides oral minoxidil. Some of the other hair loss treatments suggested by the AAD include −
Finasteride − It's a prescribed oral pill recommended for hair loss in men
Hair transplant − It's a procedure that moves hair plugs from one part of the scalp to another.
Platelet-rich plasma − It's a procedure that takes plasma out of your blood to inject into the scalp for hair growth. This procedure can be done alone or combined with a hair transplant as per the patient's requirement.
Oral minoxidil should be taken with caution for hair loss if you are taking any other medications for blood pressure. The effects of minoxidil could be noticed till the medication is continued. This long-term treatment should be prescribed by the dermatologist after face-to-face assessment at an initial hair loss consultation and after adequate knowledge of your health condition.
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