You’ve noticed you’ve been growing more unwanted hair in places you don’t naturally have it.
Your friends have started to comment on it, and you’re starting to feel self-conscious.
What you may have is call hirsutism, which is excessive hair growth, but you are not alone.
This article will look into hirsutism: understanding excess hair growth.
Let’s explore the symptoms, causes and treatments, so you understand your condition better.
Hairiness and hirsutism are not the same.
Hairiness is the state of your body covered in hair, while hirsutism refers to excessive hair growth.
Although they are frequently confused, there is a significant difference between them.
What is hirsutism?
Hirsutism is a condition characterized by unwanted hair growth on the body.
Where it can affect both men and women, but is more common in women.
What causes hirsutism?
There are many possible causes of hirsutism, including:
– certain medications
– hormonal imbalance
– and other causes
Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
You may develop hirsutism if it runs in your family.
Because your DNA controls hair development.
As long as you have a family history of hirsutism, you are likely to develop the condition yourself.
2. Certain medications
Certain medications can cause hair growth as a side effect.
For example, such as:
- anabolic steroids
- birth control pills
3. Hormonal imbalances
Hormonal imbalances can also cause hair growth.
Such as androgen, a male sex hormone responsible for hair growth.
Therefore, women with high levels of androgen in their bodies may develop excessive hair growth or hirsutism.
Menopause can also cause hair growth.
As women age, they may experience a decline in oestrogen levels.
Resulting in an increase in androgen levels, which leads to increased hair growth.
5. Other causes
There are other potential causes of hirsutism that are not yet fully understood.
These include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing’s syndrome.
- PCOS is a condition that affects the ovaries and can cause hair growth.
- Cushing’s syndrome is a rare condition. It results in the overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Also, the two examples indicated can all lead to hair growth.
The symptoms of hirsutism can vary from person to person.
Most people with hirsutism will have more body hair in areas where hair is not normally found.
For example, facial hair on the chin, chest, or back.
In addition, hirsutism can also cause hair to be thicker and darker than usual.
How is hirsutism diagnosed?
Hirsutism is usually diagnosed based on a physical and a person’s medical history.
However, the following are several tests used to rule out additional disorders, but not limited to:
A physical examination is an important part of diagnosing hirsutism.
During a physical, the doctor will check the following:
- Examine the skin for hair growth.
- Look for any other physical signs accompanying the hair growth, such as acne.
- Check for any enlarged or tender areas on the body.
- Test for any other signs of PCOS, such as obesity or insulin resistance.
After the physical examination, the doctor may order one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests to check hormone levels
- Ultrasound to visualize the ovaries and uterus
- Certain X-rays and extra tests to test the ovaries and adrenal glands
Your doctor may also order blood tests to check your hormone levels.
But, these tests can help determine if hirsutism is due to an excess of androgens (male hormones).
An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the body’s interior.
Whereas an ultrasound of the pelvis is to look for causes of why a woman has too much hair on her body.
This could be because of a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
X-rays and more tests
You can request certain X-rays and tests to check the ovaries and adrenal glands.
You may consider the following additional tests:
- Skin biopsy, whereby removing a small piece of skin and examined under a microscope.
- Hair pull test, a procedure where you pull unwanted hair from an affected area to check for hair loss.
- A 24-hour urinary free cortisol test, that measures the level of a hormone cortisol, in the urine.
- Serum testosterone test, a test that measures the level of testosterone in the blood.
Treatment of hirsutism
The way people remove hair differs depending on their race and ethnicity.
Because of these disparities, therapy choices are also determined by race or ethnicity.
For example, lighter skinned ladies have less hirsute problems than darker skinned females.
Hirsutism is a difficult condition to treat.
It is because when you begin using any new medication, it takes around six months to show improvement.
Meanwhile, you may want to cut your hair to control further growth.
Androgen levels in women decrease with age.
Although, women in their 20s may need years of therapy to control hirsutism.
As women get older, their androgen levels tend to decrease.
So, hormone therapy may not be necessary in some women.
Not always the case.
If you want to get pregnant, you need to stop taking hormone therapies for hirsutism.
The treatment of hirsutism depends on the underlying cause.
As long as the cause is due to an excess of androgens, treatment may include:
Oral contraceptive pill
Information based on UptoDate website, indicates 60 to 100% of women benefited from oral contraceptive therapy.
Since birth control pills lower the levels of male hormones.
This is usually the first choice for treating hirsutism.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues
According to Sciene Direct, combining GnRH and oestrogen replacement therapy has been successful.
This was the result claimed by a group of women with hirsutism caused by PCOD.
Hirsutism affects the hair growth cycle, and can cause acne on your face or chest area.
One way to treat this issue would be to reduce androgen hormones.
If you don’t take spironolactone (Aldatone) for six months, you won’t see any changes.
However, if the cause is due to another disease, such as PCOS, then use a therapy focusing on that issue.
In general, the whole goal of therapy treatment is to:
a) Reduce excessive hair growth
b) Slow down the production of androgens
c) Lighten the color of hair
Here are some alternative therapies to consider, which you can conduct at home:
Electrolysis is when you used a tiny needle and a mild electric current to remove hair roots one by one.
Although, the downside of electrolysis is the inability to cover a large area as you removed each hair follicle.
Also, this therapy can be uncomfortable, time-consuming, and costly.
Laser hair removal
Laser treatments use a beam of light at the hair follicle to destroy it.
While this technique is long-lasting, it covers larger regions of the body.
But, it can be painful and costly, and many visits are required.
Eflornithine hydrochloride is a skin cream to slow growth of unwanted facial hair.
Yet, the cream does not permanently remove facial hair.
However, there are side effects, like causing skin to redden.
It is best to do a patch test before application.
Hair removal agents and wax can remove excessive hair growth.
While bleaches lighten dark hair.
Warning: depilatories may cause skin sensitivity, so do a patch test first.
Shaving is cheap and safe hair removal.
But unfortunately, this means you have to do it daily.
In conclusion, hirsutism is a difficult condition to treat.
This is because hair follicles have a lifespan of six months.
For most medicines to work, you need to take at least six months for hair growth to decrease.
On the other hand, laser treatment and electrolysis are effective, but costly.
While creams, waxing and bleaching may cause skin sensitivity.
The best course of action would be to speak to a doctor to see which treatment would be best for you.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment box.
1. What gland causes excessive hair growth in females?
The adrenal gland produces androgens. They are hormones that can cause excess hair growth.
2. Is chest hair normal on females?
No, it is not considered normal for females to have chest hair.
But, some women may have a small amount of hair due to hormones or a genetic predisposition.
3. Can you cure idiopathic hirsutism?
There is no cure for idiopathic hirsutism. But there are treatments that can help control the condition.
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