Hirsutism is a condition of unwanted, male-pattern hair growth in women. Hirsutism results in excessive amounts of dark, coarse hair on body areas where men typically grow hair — face, chest, and back. However, hirsutism is a medical condition that can arise from excess male hormones called androgens, primarily testosterone. It can also be due to a family trait.
A woman with the mildest form of hirsutism may notice significant growth of hair on the upper lip, chin, sideburn area, and around the nipples or lower abdomen.
In some cases, additional symptoms may accompany hirsutism, including:
- Deepening voice
- Decreased breast size
- Enlargement of the clitoris
- Increased muscle mass
Although androgens are available to men at higher levels, women also have these hormones in smaller quantities. Male hormones, such as testosterone, stimulate hair growth, increase body size, and intensify the growth and pigmentation of hair.
Hirsutism may be caused by:
- Medical conditions in which the body produces too many male hormones, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or conditions that disrupt normal hormone levels, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
- Family history – several conditions that cause hirsutism run in families
- Ethnicity – hirsutism is found more frequently in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and South Asian women
Diagnosis & Tests
It is important to determine the cause of unwanted hair growth and address any underlying health conditions. Diagnosis starts with a detailed medical history and a thorough physical exam.
Additional testing may include:
- Blood tests – to measure hormone levels
- Ultrasound – to take pictures of the ovaries or adrenal glands
- Computerized Tomography (CT) scan – to take images of the adrenal glands
Treatment and Prevention
Hirsutism generally isn’t preventable. Treatment for hirsutism often involves a combination of treating the underlying disorder, if there is one, self-care methods, hair removal therapies, and medications.
Aster Clinic, Muteena