Hirsutism

Hirsutism is a condition of excess hair growth on face, chest and other areas of body in women.  Both men and women have female and male sex hormones.  The proportion of male sex hormones in female is less limiting only to cause hair growth in armpits and pubic area.  When this balance gets disturbed due to some reason, excess androgen production in women triggers growth of unwanted hairs.

Excess hair growth occurs when male hormones called androgens, testosterone in particular, are secreted in excess.

What are the causes?

Hirsutism can be caused by:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Tumors
  • Medications
  • Women with family history of hirsutism are more prone to develop hirsutism.
  • Obesity
What are the symptoms?
  • Coarse and dark body hair starts growing on the face, chest, back and legs of a woman.
  • It is important to seek medical attention for hirsutism because over time due to excess production of androgen another medical condition called virilization can develop when a woman can get
    • Male characteristics like deepening voice, balding, acne, reduction in breast size, increase in the size of clitoris and increased muscle mass.
What tests will be required for diagnosis?

Hirsutism is diagnosed by checking the amount of androgen in blood.  If excess androgen is confirmed by blood test, the next step is to do an ultrasound or CT to examine the ovaries and adrenal glands for any masses.

What are the treatment options available?

There is no direct treatment for hirsutism and it is treated by treating the underlying cause of hirsutism.

  • Medications

It usually takes six months before you see a noticeable difference in hair growth due to the average life of a hair follicle.  It is advisable to avoid pregnancy during this time to prevent the risk of birth defects.

The aim of medications is to inhibit androgen production and restore hormonal balance.  Medications include oral contraceptive pills, anti-androgens or topical creams.  These measures are aimed to prevent new hair growth but do not eliminate existing hairs.

  • Procedures

Procedures are mainly done to remove unwanted hairs.  Electrolysis and laser therapy are two such procedures which remove hair permanently.