Tamsulosin and finasteride are commonly used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. Despite both medications treating the same condition, they are not the same, and finasteride is also a common, effective treatment for hair loss in men, though at a lower dose than in BPH.
The rest of this piece will oultine some of the key differences between tamsulosin vs finasteride.
How Tamsulosin and Finasteride Treat the Same Condition
When discussing tamsulosin vs finasteride, it’s crucial to understand that both medications can treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, but they do so in unique ways.
Tamsulosin is an alpha-blocker. It does not affect the size of the prostate; instead, the drug helps to relieve the symptoms of BPH by relaxing the bladder and prostate muscles. With regular use, the drug can ease the flow of urine, strengthen the urine stream, and reduce the need for frequent and urgent urination.
Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. As such, it inhibits the production of DHT from testosterone. DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, contributes to the development of BPH. By taking this medication regularly, you can treat the symptoms of BPH. Finasteride is only suitable for men, and it can cause congenital disabilities in unborn fetuses if taken by women during pregnancy.
While both drugs are useful in the treatment of BPH, they are not the same. Tamsulosin is effective in the treatment and improvement of BPH symptoms, but finasteride not only treats symptoms but can also delay the progression of the condition because it inhibits DHT production. Either drug is beneficial, but you will need to discuss the potential risks with your doctor to determine the right medication for you.
Taking Your First Dose of Tamsulosin
Tamsulosin is typically delivered via 0.4 mg capsules once daily. While the initial effects of the drug can set in within 48 hours, offering some relief to BPH patients, complete relief can take up to six weeks. In some instances, the 0.4 mg capsule will not be enough to provide relief, in which case a doctor might suggest doubling the dose. Because of potential side effects and adverse reactions, never increase your dose without your doctor’s consent.
When you first begin taking the medication, you should take your first dose before bed. Some patients experience dizziness or fainting spells after the initial dose, so being in bed can reduce such occurrences. After the initial dosage, most people can take the prescription 30 minutes after a meal; however, most doctors will recommend you take the medication after the same meal every day.
Tamsulosin should not be used in combination with other alpha-blocking agents nor strong inhibitors, such as ketoconazole. You should pay close attention to any uneasy feelings after taking your initial dose of the prescription and alert your doctor to any concerning side effects.
Taking Your First Dose of Finasteride
When taking finasteride for BPH, the dosage is 5 mg once daily in tablet form; however, dosing may differ depending on the patient and intended use. The medication is often used for BPH, but it can also be effective in treating male pattern hair loss at 1 mg daily.
That’s because finasteride’s effects on DHT carry through to hair loss, where DHT is one of the key hormones involved in male pattern baldness. Reducing DHT in the body can lead to improved hair growth and density, proven in multiple clinical trials.
Regardless of the reason for taking the medication, you can take the tablet with or without food, but you should take it at a regularly scheduled time. The time you take the prescription is up to you, but physicians will generally recommend skipping it and continuing with your schedule the next day if you miss a dose.
One aspect of finasteride that patients may find frustrating is the timeline to relief. While the relief of some symptoms can occur within the first couple of days, the full effects of this medicine will often take six months. However, when discussing BPH, there is significant evidence that the drug reduces the size of the prostate and accompanying symptoms, meaning superior relief, and most patients are willing to wait for those results.
As BPH is a persistent disorder, it’s necessary to understand that medication is vital to sustained wellbeing. Finasteride will only work for as long as you take it. If you go off the medication for any reason, symptoms may recur.
Potential Side Effects of Tamsulosin and Necessary Precautions
As with any prescription medication, your doctor will monitor you closely, ensuring you experience results with minimal adverse effects. While dizziness and lightheadedness are common symptoms of tamsulosin, the medicine can also lead to fainting when standing from a laying or sitting position too quickly. It’s necessary to keep this potential reaction in mind so you can take appropriate precautions. Those people who are unusually sensitive to the effects of tamsulosin might want to avoid the use of heavy machinery that might present a significant threat or hazard should you faint.
Rarely, tamsulosin can cause an allergic reaction or erectile damage. If you experience swelling, blistering, or difficulty breathing after taking the medication, contact your doctor immediately. If you experience a prolonged erection, get to an emergency room quickly to prevent permanent erectile damage.
While the above represent the most common and rare side effects of tamsulosin, they do not represent all. Some of the other more common responses include:
- Lower back or side pain
- Painful or difficult urination
- Cough or hoarseness
- Fever or chills
- Chest pain
If any symptoms arise after taking this medication, contact your doctor. The medicine should help your condition, not make it worse. Your doctor can work with you to find a solution or medication that works better.
Potential Side Effects of Finasteride and Necessary Precautions
Like tamsulosin, finasteride requires close monitoring from your doctor. The prescription can lead to unwanted effects and risky interactions. It is not meant for women or children, and neither should handle the medication as it can be absorbed through the skin.
Finasteride is an effective BPH treatment, but it can result in breast tissue changes, like tenderness, lumps, pain, and swelling. It can also potentially increase your risk of developing prostate cancer, and it might affect the result of PSA tests for early detection. Finally, the drug can lead to a decreased sperm count, although it should not affect your ability to have children.
Beyond breast tissue and semen changes, finasteride can lead to several potential side effects. Some of the more common finasteride side effects include:
- Cold sweats
Finasteride can also result in bloating, hives, skin rash, weight gain or loss, and swelling, though all are less common. These are more likely at the dose of 5mg for BPH, and less likely at the lower dose typical of hair loss, 1 mg.
If you experience any side effects or changes while taking the prescription, contact your doctor immediately. They might want to perform blood tests to determine the cause of your symptoms, and they may need to change your dose or the medicine altogether.
Do not be discouraged if finasteride does not work for you. You and your physician can continue to discuss and experiment with alternatives until you find the best solution for your situation.
Tamsulosin vs Finasteride: Which Medication Is Right for You?
When deciding between tamsulosin vs finasteride, you need first to consider your needs and discuss your situation with a licensed professional. Are you looking for a medicine to combat BPH with limited side effects and a fairly quick functional time, or are you looking for significant long-term relief with more complete effects on the root cause? Your doctor can help make this decision, and the right medication may be dependant on other underlying medical conditions.
Tamsulosin can provide benefits within 48 hours and should produce significant relief in weeks. The side effects are manageable, with little concern for more traumatizing or life-threatening developments.
Finasteride, alternatively, may take months to experience the full benefits, and it comes with some potential side effects. As a treatment option, however, finasteride does more than combat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate; it works to shrink it and relieve painful BPH symptoms.
There is another potential advantage to taking finasteride that’s not found with tamsulosin. Finasteride, because it is a DHT inhibitor, can promote hair growth for men experiencing male pattern baldness.
You and your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of both medications, weighing your situation against the known and suspected risks of each prescription. Together you should be able to agree on the best path forward.
While tamsulosin is a common medication for BPH treatment, it’s not useful in hair growth or for combatting the effects of hair loss caused by DHT. If you have BPH and are experiencing hair loss, finasteride could be a compelling option for more than one reason.
The hair growth experts at Shapiro MD can help if you’re dealing with hair loss and considering finasteride. This medication has been around for decades, proven to help a majority of men who try it with improved growth and density. Click here to get started with a telemedicine consultation of your own.