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Q. Can oral Minoxidil be used instead of topical Rogaine as a drug for hair loss?
Oral Minoxidil is available in a pill form known as Loniten. While it may be prescribed in other countries for hair loss, it has not been approved for this purpose here in the United States. Currently, the only FDA approved medications for hair loss  include:

(1) Rogaine which is a topical, over the counter formulation of Minoxidil, available in 2% and 5% concentrations.

(2) Propecia, a brand name for the drug, Finasteride. This is only available by prescription and is intended to be used by men since it carries the risk of birth defects.

How Minoxidil Works For the Treatment of Hair Loss

Minoxidil was originally intended to treat high blood pressure. During the initial clinical research studies, it was administered as an oral medication. However, the unexpected phenomenon of hair growth was observed in many of the research subjects. The compound enlarges the blood vessels, which increases the availability of oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles in the process of miniaturizing

The early results from these studies help explain why oral Minoxidil is still given consideration for treating hair loss.

Why Oral Minoxidil Is Not Recommended As A Hair Loss Drug

Oral Minoxidil is still used to treat hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure) and prevent complications such as kidney issues, strokes and heart attacks. It works to relax and dilate blood vessels.

It needs to be taken with other prescription medications to prevent water retention and weight gain.

The risks and complexities associated with its usage explains why most doctors discourage applications for treating hair loss.

There are many side effects which can occur from taking oral Minoxidil. These include:

(1) accelerated heart rate

(2) breathing difficulties

(3) digestive problems

(4) hair growth in unwanted places

(5) swelling due to salt and water retention

(6) pain in the chest, shoulders and arms

These complications, however, do not occur with topical versions of Minoxidil, like Rogaine.

The Use of Ancillary Drugs To Enhance the Performance of Rogaine

Exact recommendations for treating genetic hair loss will vary from patient to patient. However, some doctors will prescribe adjunct medications that can be used to help increase the effectiveness of Rogaine. These include:

(1) Ketoconazole shampoo

(2) topical tretinoin

Ketoconazole shampoo reduces inflammation which occurs when the hair follicles start to miniaturize . This can happen when DHT initially binds to androgen protein receptors at the base of these structures.

It’s active ingredient is also capable of occupying these receptors to help prevent damage incurred by the dehydrotestosterone compound.

Topical tretinoin may be prescribed to increase the skin’s level of permeability and overall receptivity to Rogaine. This helps Minoxidil to penetrate deeper layers of the skin in order to benefit the hair follicles.

These options can be discussed with a physician as much safer alternatives to using oral versions of Minoxidil. Early intervention is usually a key factor to experiencing successful results with any type of hair loss medication. Long term healthy lifestyle choices can also provide optimal conditions needed for follicles to maintain their ability to grow new hair and slow the rate of shedding.

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