Hirsutism is a female health condition that causes excessive growth of thick dark hair on the body. Women with this health problem often suffer from lower self-esteem and problems with sexual relationships. Because of feelings of shame, women rarely talk about this condition. For this reason, it is often misunderstood by society.
Below are 6 commonly asked questions about excessive hair growth in women.
1. What are the symptoms of hirsutism?
The main symptom of hirsutism is the excessive growth of stiff or dark body hair. The hair usually grows in places where it normally shouldn’t. The hair can appear on your face, lower abdomen, chest, and even back.
Elevated levels of androgens in people with hirsutism can cause other symptoms over time. They include balding, acne, decreased breast size, clitoral enlargement, acne, and deepening voice.
2. What causes hirsutism?
There are several common causes of hirsutism that include:
Cushing syndrome is a health condition that occurs when your body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. Because of improper work of the adrenal glands, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) may occur.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is an inherited disease that causes the unhealthy production of steroid hormones (cortisol and androgens).
Medications can cause the development of hirsutism. These include medications for the treatment of endometriosis and oral testosterone. Topical remedies with androgens may also increase your risk of hirsutism.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a gynecological issue that causes an imbalance of key sex hormones. Apart from excessive hair growth, PCOS may cause symptoms like obesity, irregular periods, and cysts on the ovaries.
3. Are there risk factors for hirsutism?
Several factors can increase your risk of hirsutism. Because hirsutism often runs in families, the most common cause is heredity. If one of your family members has hirsutism, your chances of getting this condition increase significantly.
Obesity may also make you more prone to excessive hair growth. Being obese increases the production of androgens by your adrenal glands, which can trigger or worsen hirsutism.
Some ethnic groups are also at a higher risk of hirsutism. They include women of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian ancestry.
4. Can hirsutism cause complications?
Women with hirsutism often experience emotional issues like low self-esteem and even depression. This can result in some level of social distraction and the inability to participate in activities like sunbathing.
Hirsutism doesn’t directly cause physical health problems. But an underlying cause like PCOS or congenital adrenal hyperplasia can. For this reason, it is extremely important to seek medical help if you think you have hirsutism.
5. When do I need to see a doctor?
People have different opinions on what's considered excessive hair growth. But if you think you have too much dark hair in places where it normally shouldn’t be, don’t hesitate to consult your primary care clinic. You should also consult your doctor if the density of your body hair has rapidly increased. Your general doctor can refer you to an endocrinologist or dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis.
It is important to note that even if you feel ok about excessive hair growth, you still need to visit the doctor. Hirsutism can develop in the background of other serious health problems that require prompt treatment.
6. What are the treatment options for hirsutism?
The treatment of hirsutism usually focuses on the treatment of the underlying cause of this condition. You may be prescribed to take medications like oral contraceptives, anti-androgens, and topical creams for excessive hair growth.
Several cosmetic procedures can help remove excessive hair and improve the quality of your life. These procedures include laser hair removal and electrolysis. Both these procedures are aimed to destroy the hair follicle and decrease hair growth. Home remedies like depilation, bleaching, waxing, and shaving help remove excess hair and decrease the appearance of hirsutism.