Virginia Commonwealth University

As If Bald Guys Didn’t Have Enough Problems, Propecia Might Cause Permanent Impotence

Posted: March 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

So, if previous entries to this blog haven’t convinced you to not waste your time with the current slew of baldness medications, this should. ABC News reported recently that a number of these drugs could cause a severe sexual side effect: the effect of no sex at all.

That’s right. Finasteride, or you might know it as Proscar or Propecia, is now suspected to cause erectile dysfunction. But the good news is the side effect only lasts FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So how does it work, thereby making it not work? ABC News reported:

“The drugs block an enzyme that converts the male sex hormone testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which is toxic to hair follicles, but important for healthy sexual functioning.”

Dihydrotestosterone. Can’t live with it, can’t get an erection without it.

As evidence that this is not an entirely new problem, there are support groups online, such as, which boasts over 1,000 members that have reported these side effects.

But what is coming as a surprise to many is that the effects do not always go away once the drug is out of the patient’s system. Dr. Andrew Rynne runs a sexual health clinic in Ireland, and he said that he has seen Propecia and similar drugs have the effect of making men “continue to suffer from sexual anesthesia,” in which “all sexual pleasure and feelings have been obliterated for all time.”

Yeesh. Give it to ’em straight, doc.

And the sexual effect usually seems to show up with an equally unwelcome friend. Abdulmaged M. Traish, a professor of biochemistry and urology at Boston University School of Medicine, said:

“We found out that we’re really ignoring the important part, especially those in whom the problem becomes persistent. That’s the group that everybody forgot. We have to worry about the consequences for people who are going to suffer – even after they discontinue the drug – from continuous loss of libido and potential depression.”

Ah, yes. Impotence and depression. The chicken and the egg, folks.

In fact, Dr. Michael Irwig, an endocrinologist at George Washington University, said that he has even met men who have become suicidal due to the effects of these drugs. In a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Irwig interviewed 71 men who suffered from the side effects after going off finasteride. He found that that after an average of 40 months off the drug, they were still suffering from the negative sexual effects. The report said:

“94% developed low libido, 92% developed erectile dysfunction, 92% developed decreased arousal, and 69% developed problems with orgasm.”

Irwig also noted that part of the problem is that doctors don’t know about it, since there hasn’t been much published about it.

Class action lawsuits have been brought against Merck, the company behind Propecia, so hopefully not many more will have to suffer.

In the meantime, this is all the more reason to stay bald and proud. Well, at least until that stem-cell treatment comes through.

“Shave me, I’m Irish” should be your slogan this year

Posted: March 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Sure, this blog is usually just a space for bald-related whining and self-deprecating jokes. Oh, and the occasional attempt at understanding medical science or the human psyche. But forget all that today, because ’tis the season to go bald for a reason. That’s right, St. Baldrick’s Day is approaching, and there are more serious afflictions than male-pattern baldness.

Note: The blog will go back to its normal, ridiculous form next week. Pinky swear.

But anyway, St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a charity organization that raises money to fight children’s cancer through head shaving events across the country. According to the official St. Baldrick’s website:

On March 17, 2000, reinsurance executives John Bender, Tim Kenny and Enda McDonnell turned their industry’s St. Patrick’s Day party into a head-shaving event to benefit kids with cancer. Their 20 “shavee” recruits planned to raise “$17,000 on the 17th.” Instead, they raised over $104,000!

From those modest beginnings grew a global craze, and they said that they have since raised over $90 million for the cause.

According to ABC 2 in Baltimore, the foundation has already raised $3 million this year alone.

And the cause is certainly one worth getting behind, and even shedding some hair for. According to the American Cancer Society last year:

About 10,700 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Because of major treatment advances, 80% of these children will survive 5 years or more. This is a huge increase from before the 1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was less than 50%.

Despite its rarity and the major advances in treatment and supportive care, cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease in children younger than 15 years old. About 1,340 children are expected to die from cancer in 2010.

So seriously, what’s a little hair for a cause like this? After all, even Major League pitchers are doing it. And don’t say that it doesn’t count because they wear hats.

There are a couple St. Baldrick’s events here in Richmond this weekend. St. Patty’s Palooza is going on in Innsbrook to benefit the charity, and you can hit up if you want to sign up to be shaved or if you just want to help out.

And the Church Hill Irish Festival will also feature a shaving event and raise money for St. Baldricks. You can check that event out at the Facebook page.

The money raised by the head-shaving events goes to fund scholarships, fellowships, researchers, and more. If you donate, you can easily see where the money went on the official website.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s hard to think of anything but green beer and whiskey, it might be time to think about a good cause like this. Besides, there’s a good chance you might wake up the next morning with a shaved head anyway.

She said what bald men were already thinking and weeping about

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Oh, Tatiana Boncompagni. You cut to the core.

For those who missed it, Boncompagni wrote a stirring (read: depressing) article for The New York Times recently. In the wake of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, she took the opportunity to explore the psychology of balding men and the possible increased urgency they feel to find and secure a mate. She asked:

“Is it possible that the 28-year-old prince felt an urge to lock up a commitment from Ms. Middleton because his heart-throb status might be beginning to disappear with the hair? If so, what must the rest of the not-so-princely men in the world feel when youthful looks begin to fade?”

Saturn’s rings! She’s right! What will become of the chrome-domed masses? The noble, once-loved people will be forced to roam the Earth alone. There’s blood on your hands, Mr. Darwin!


But she does bring up some valid points. For instance, women have developed an increased financial independence over the last century or so. Thus, it stands to reason that the fairer sex would start to develop a more rigorous screening method.

Full pockets? Sure, but how full is his scalp?

However, she seemed to think that until recently, women had a monopoly on body image issues and insecurities. AND she attempts to comfort the poor men afflicted with the horrible sickness of balding by reminding readers that Michael Jordan and Bruce Willis are both bald and beloved.

So, women will overlook baldness. Phew. All you have to do is be one of the greatest athletes of all time or JOHN flippin’ MCLANE.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen responded to the article with a sort-of-sarcastic post of his own, saying, “If any bald readers weren’t yet considering suicide, they certainly were after finishing it.”

But on a positive note, the comment section for Chen’s post lit up with women coming to the defense of baldies, even posting photos of shiny, sexy dudes as proof.

So it appears that Boncompagni forgot that there are actually women out there who think bald men are attractive.

Those sickos.

And in her analysis, she also overlooked another factor in human mating. There is mounting evidence that women don’t care about looks if you’ve got swagger.

As image consultant Amanda Sanders told WebMD:

“I hate to say this, but nothing is less attractive than a man with thin hair who is trying to hang on to it. I seldom see anyone with a toupee or hair weave or hair plugs who looks fabulous. It always looks fake, and I think that’s a put-off. Women find it more attractive when a man has more confidence in himself, so a balding man should just embrace being bald.”

So there you have it. Let your bald flag fly. Some women will dig it, and some will shun you. But really, how would that be different from regular life?

Besides, in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, “Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries.”

New Advances In Baldness Treatment! Maybe! In The Distant Future!

Posted: February 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Solidarity. (Photo by Doug Callahan)

Science might be a step closer to curing an ailment that has confounded doctors and depressed men for millennia. A condition that will serve as the topic for this whole blog. Baldness.

There have been several theories as to why people go bald through the years, such as a general vibe of contempt from the universe or horrible mistakes made in a past life. But while questions of fate and karma might be more fun to ponder, it seems that the baldness mystery could be better placed within a more practical debate in our nation’s dialogue: stem cell research.

For a background on the issue, the National Institutes of Health describe male pattern baldness as such:

Each hair sits in a cavity in the skin called a follicle. Baldness in men occurs when the follicle shrinks over time, resulting in shorter and finer hair. The end result is a very small follicle with no hair inside. Ordinarily, hair should grow back. However, in men who are balding, the follicle fails to grow a new hair. Why this occurs is not well understood, but it is related to your genes and male sex hormones.

In a fully functioning, non-balding scalp, stem cells form progenitor cells, which are then charged with the duty of producing a thick, luxurious mane. The most accepted attempt at explaining baldness up to this point was the death of these stem cells. But a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has turned that argument on its head.

On its smooth, hairless head.

George Cotsarelis, chairman of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s dermatology department and co-author of the study, told Health Day that the stem cells are only malfunctioning. And if they’re only malfunctioning, that means they’re still there, and they might respond to treatment!

To figure this out, the researchers took samples of tissue from scalps of both variety and tested them for evidence of dead stem cells. They found that hairy scalp tissue and bald scalp tissue had about the same amount of stem cells. But there was one difference: the bald scalp tissue had significantly fewer progenitor cells. (Remember? The ones that grow hair.)

So a bald scalp isn’t a stem cell graveyard. It’s just a big, comfy couch where they lazily neglect their job.

Or, as the researchers put it in the study:

Surprisingly, we found that a well-demarcated population of cells expressing high levels of both CD200 and ITGA6 was markedly decreased in haired versus bald scalp (Figure 2, D–F; 2.3% ± 0.7% vs. 0.28% ± 0.1%, P = 0.005, n = 9). This population represented 10.0% ± 0.1% (n = 9) of the entire CD200+ population; to our knowledge, it has not been studied previously.


Anyway, Cotsarelis told Health Day, “Now that we have identified the problem we can try to better understand how to get a stem cell to make and activate a progenitor cells. And then we should be able to develop new ways of treating baldness.”

So what’s the treatment? And when’s it coming?

They don’t know. And probably not for a long time.

As Cotsarelis put it, “Taking something from the lab to the clinic often takes decades, so there’s no treatment around the corner. It’s really going to take quite a while to figure this out.”