What is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is a common condition that affects 5% to 10% of women during their childbearing years. Hirsutism causes excessive growth of dark, coarse hair (not “peach fuzz”) on the face (chin and upper lip), chest, abdomen, or back, which can be distressing. Some causes of hirsutism include:
- An excess of male hormones such as testosterone
- Menopause-related hormonal changes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Disorders of the adrenal glands
- Disorders of the ovaries
- Cushing syndrome
- Certain medicines
You are at a greater risk of developing hirsutism if you are obese or have a family history of hirsutism. Additionally, hirsutism affects more women of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian ancestry.
Hirsutism causes thick, dark, coarse hair to grow in unusual places in women, such as the face, chest, and back. Besides unusual thick, dark, coarse hair, some other symtoms that can be seen in women with hirsutism include:
- Unusual acne
- A deepening voice
- An enlarged clitoris
- A decrease in breast size
- An increase in muscle mass
- Losing the hair on your head
Hirsutism is often an indication of an underlying medical condition, so you must see your doctor to get a diagnosis and identify the cause.
The first step in getting a diagnosis starts with an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and your family’s medical history, as well as your signs and symptoms. Your doctor will perform a physical examination during this appointment. Additional tests include:
- Blood tests
There may be additional tests to check your ovaries and adrenal glands to rule out other conditions.
It is unnecessary to treat hirsutism for purely cosmetic reasons as hirsutism does not cause physical harm, but it can cause emotional distress. Besides, the underlying cause of your hirsutism could be severe and may need treatment, so it is essential that you see your doctor to rule out the underlying causes. However, if an endocrine disorder is not responsible for your hirsutism, here are some options for reducing your hirsutism: