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Hirsutism, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Excess growth of long and coarse hair in women in a pattern similar to that of men is termed as hirsutism( a hair raising problem in women). Areas which are vulnerable are upper lip, chin, chest, abdomen, lower back, groin.

Abnormally high levels of male hormone (androgen) in females cause the fine, soft, colourless vellus hairs to grow into long coarse and dark terminal hairs leading to hirsutism.

What causes hirsutism ?

Circumstances below mentioned often lead to high levels of androgen secretion, which in turn causes hirsutism –

  • Hereditary – if your grandmother, mother or sister has the disorder, then you are at a higher risk of developing it.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – causes the ovaries to develop many small cysts and overproduce male hormones leading to hirsutism, irregular periods and obesity.
  • Ovarian tumors – in which the woman starts developing masculine characteristics such as a deep voice etc.
  • Adrenal gland disorder – adrenal gland is a site where androgen is produced. Although an inherited cause, but tumors may also develop here leading to hirsutism.
  • Drugs and birth control pills, steroids.
  • Mental stress, tension, social pressure

How to identify hirsutism ?

The most obvious symptom is excessive male pattern hair growth. Some other common signs are missed or scanty periods, acne, weight gain, deepening of the voice, male type baldness and/or shrinkage of the breasts.

How to get rid of excess hair (hirsutism)?

  • Lose weight if over weight. Losing weight reduces the amount of hormones in your body that cause increased hair growth.
  • If the cause is a hormone-producing tumor, then you need to go in for surgery.
  • An overactive gland is treated with drugs so as to stop excess hormone production. These drugs slow down hair growth so that they become thinner and less noticeable.
  • Acupuncture helps reduce hair density and length as well as level of male androgen production

Hormone treatment is prolonged and a significant decrease in the rate of hair growth will not be seen before 6 months of treatment. But the hairs already present need to be removed by cosmetic methods. These are –

  • Waxing, plucking – if you have mild hirsutism.
  • Depilatory creams – but first check your sensitivity.
  • Bleaching makes the excess unwanted hair less noticeable.
  • Shaving – needed to be done frequently. Razors made for ladies are available nowadays.
  • Electrolysis – a permanent way to reduce unwanted hair. It is quite effective, but time consuming and expensive because a small area is treated every few days.
  • Laser therapy – the latest in unwanted facial hair removal and is increasingly becoming popular. It is relatively painless and permanent to an extent.

Hirsutism is a very common disorder. If you look around and see, one in every twenty women in their reproductive age suffer from it. After menopause, some women develop hirsutism. Mild hirsutism is not alarming if periods are regular. Check out for help only if the symptoms severe and you are unable to control body or facial hair growth through cosmetic means


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