Is Minoxidil Safe?

Will minoxidil help bald people grow hair? More importantly, is it safe? Clinical trials conducted by Upjohn researchers paint a rosy picture but initial results have been questioned by other researchers.

Despite the shortcomings of the Upjohn trial, some think the slim chance offered by minoxidil is better than none at all. While the drug’s success rate isn’t that big, it does offer hope to the millions of bald men and women searching for a cure for their condition.

What’s the secret of minoxidil’s hair-growing ability? At present, the answer remains a mystery. What is known is that minoxidil 5 dilates small blood vessels in the scalp and perhaps hair follicle cells as well. Doing so appears to produce hair growth which starts in about four months to a year.

“Until recently, minoxidil was thought to work by increasing blood flow to the scalp area, thus bringing more nutrients to hair roots. But the latest research reveals that minoxidil actually turns on one of the genes in follicle cells that regulate hair growth,” said Carla Rohfling in Longevity magazine.

Does minoxidil cure baldness? No, it doesn’t. For one, it doesn’t work for all people. If you’re one of the lucky few who will benefit from this drug, you have to use it indefinitely if you want to maintain your hew hair. The standard regimen is two applications daily. Once you stop using minoxidil, the new hairs fall out in three to four months.

“No one on minoxidil is going to start off entirely bald and end up with a thick head of hair. At best, you can hope that a partially bald area on top of your head gets filled in to some extent,” according to the editors of Consumers Union’s “The New Medicine Show.”

Since minoxidil should be used indefinitely for it to work, the next point to consider is safety. Can minoxidil be used for a long time without harming the patient? What are its side effects?

As an antihypertensive, minoxidil is a troublesome drug. It can cause breast tenderness, chest pain, difficult or painful urination, darkening of the skin, rapid weight gain, and unusual bleeding or bruising.

“The oral form of this drug can cause severe adverse effects on the heart. It is usually given together with a beta-blocking antihypertensive drug to prevent rapid heartbeat and a diuretic to prevent fluid accumulation. Some patients may have to be hospitalized when treatment with this drug is started to avoid too rapid a drop in blood pressure,” revealed Lawrence D. Chilnick, editor-in-chief of “The Pill Book.”

Can we expect the same dangers when minoxidil is rubbed on the scalp? Find out in the concluding part of this series. (Next: Side effects of minoxidil.)

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