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Hirsutism - Symptoms & Treatment


Hirsutism is defined as excessive and increased hair growth in women in locations where the occurrence of terminal hair normally is minimal or absent. In most cases, hirsutism is a benign condition and primarily is of cosmetic concern. In more severe cases, hirsutism can be a cosmetic catastrophe. The major objectives in the management of hirsutism are to rule out a serious underlying medical condition and to devise a plan of treatment. The cause of hirsutism can be either an increased level of androgens (male hormones ) or an oversensitivity of hair follicles to androgens. Although some women with hirsutism have increased amounts of male hormone (eg. testosterone), most have normal levels. Rarer, and more serious, endocrine causes of hirsutism and virilization include congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing's syndrome and virilization tumours of the ovary and adrenal. Women from certain ethnic groups tend to have more body hair than others. This does not mean that they have hirsutism. Hirsutism is very common and can be hereditary.

Hirsutism can be caused by any condition that increases the normally low levels of male hormones in a woman. Most patients with hirsutism will have some disturbance of menstruation.  The greater the disrution the more likely it is that there is a serious cause. Many patients with hirsutism are also overwieght or obese. However, when hirsutism in women is accompanied by masculinizing signs or symptoms, particularly when these arise well after puberty, hirsutism may be a manifestation of a more serious underlying disorder such as an ovarian or adrenal neoplasm. Other symptoms associated with a high level of male hormones include acne, irregular menstrual periods, deepening of the voice and increased muscle mass. Women normally have low levels of androgens, but abnormally high levels of androgens can lead to excess hair growth. At least 25% of normal middle-aged women have unwanted facial hair and many women do not realise the treatment options that are available. A tendency to hirsutism does run in some families and is not associated with an excess of androgens.

Causes of Hirsutism

The common causes and risk factor's of Hirsutism include the following:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Hirsutism can be caused by abnormally high levels of male hormones (called androgens).
  • Some medicines can cause hirsutism. These medicines include birth control pills, hormones and anabolic steroids.
  • Idiopathic hirsutism.
  • Hair follicles that are overly sensitive to male hormones.
  • Tumor or cancer of the ovary.

Symptoms of Hirsutism

Some sign and symptoms related to Hirsutism are as follows:

  • Acne.
  • Malodorous perspiration.
  • Obesity.
  • Enlarged muscles.
  • Loss of female contour-sign of defeminization.
  • Irregular menstrual periods.
  • Excess hair growth may be present.
  • Women who have hirsutism have dark, thick hair on their face, chest, abdomen and back.

Treatment of Hirsutism

Here is list of the methods for treating Hirsutism:

  • A medicine called an anti-androgen to help control the male hormones that cause hirsutism.
  • Spironolactone 50-200 mg daily can slowly reduce excessive hair growth. It is sometimes combined with the oral contraceptive pill.
  • Laser hair-removal techniques - This uses light to generate heat inside hair follicles, which destroys the ability of hair to grow from the follicle.
  • Electrolysis -- using electrical current to damage individual hair follicles so they do not grow back. This is expensive and requires multiple treatments.
  • Chemical depilation may be suited best to treatment of large hairy areas in patients unable to afford more expensive treatments such as electrolysis and laser epilation.
  • Bleaching makes the excessive hair less obvious.

 

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