New Potential Options for Female Pattern Hair Loss
Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL), also known as female hair thinning or female androgenetic alopecia is a common type of hair loss that affects about one-third of women. Most women affected by the condition start with slightly increased hair shedding. Over time, the patient notices decreased hair density and a more see through appearance to the scalp.
Topical Minoxidil remains the only formally FDA and Health Canada approved treatment for FPHL. Application of minoxidil does have it's own unique set of challenges. Many patients give up after a period of time. Other options including oral anti-androgens, laser, PRP and hair transplantation (for some women).
Oral minoxidil has been around for many decades and was originally used as a blood pressure medication. It is known to increase hair growth on the body as a side effects. Recently there has been increased interest worldwide in understand the potential benefits of using low dose oral minoxidil to treat hair loss. Rather than using the 10-40 mg doses that were once used to treat blood pressure, low dose oral minoxidil for hair loss involves doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 2.5 mg.
Rod Sinclair from Australia set out to study the potential benefits of using oral minoxidil and oral spironolactone together. The dose of minoxidil prescribed was 0.25 mg and the dose of spironolactone used was 25 mg.
100 women were included in this study. The mean age was 48.44 years and the mean duration of diagnosis was 6.5 years. Overall the drug combination reduced shedding and reduced hair loss. There was a slight reduction in mean blood pressure of 4.52 mmHg systolic and 6.48 mgHg diastolic. 8 % of patients in the study have side effects but they were deemed mild. Only 2 of the 100 patients overall discontinued treatment and these were patients with hives (urticaria).
This is an interesting study. It has long been known that the combination of topical minoxidil and oral spirionlactone (at higher does) are beneficial to FPHL. In fact, it was Dr Sinclair who showed this many years ago as well. This study is interesting because of the safety and limited side effects that were observed. Only 2 % of patients dropped out of the study. In another study by Dr. Sinclair (of chronic telogen effluvium) which also involved study of oral minoxidil, there were no drop outs. Together, these studies speak to a relatively good safety profile of oral minoxidil.
We have been using oral minoxidil in clinic for some time. I was first inspired to consider it by presentation by Dr SInclair a few years back. (Nobody in the world has more experience with oral minoxidil for hair loss than Dr. Sinclair). The most common side effects is the increased hair on the face (especially upper lip) and body that some patients get. Dizziness, headaches, hives, ankle swelling are among the other side effects. The most common side effect in practice is increased hair on the upper lip in 25- 35 % of women. Other less common side effects are typically headaches, ankle swelling, hives. Surprisingly, shedding does not tend to be very common when starting. The ease of taking oral minoxidil vs topical minoxidil does make it a important option for further study.
More studies of oral minoxidil are needed but studied to date are promising.
Female pattern hair loss: a pilot study investigating combination therapy with low-dose oral minoxidil and spironolactone. Sinclair RD. Int J Dermatol. 2018.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887