What is hirsutism?

Hirsutism

What are the symptoms of hirsutism?

Symptoms of hirsutism include extra hair that grows on a woman's face, like it does on a man's face. Or it grows on the body, especially the chest and back. The hair is dark and coarse.

How is unwanted hair in women treated?

Your doctor may want to do blood tests or other tests to find out if a medical problem is causing your extra hair growth (hirsutism). If the cause is not a medical problem, treating it is often a matter of choice. That's because hirsutism usually isn't a sign of a health problem. Treatments include:

Birth control pills.

This is the most common treatment. Birth control pills contain hormones, so they help balance your body's hormone level.

Antiandrogens.

These are prescription medicines that lower the amount of male sex hormones in your body.

Topical cream.

Your doctor may prescribe a cream that you rub into affected areas to slow hair growth.

Electrolysis.

This method uses a very thin probe in the hair follicle. An electric current through the probe destroys the ability of that follicle to grow hair.

Laser hair removal.

This is a medical procedure that uses light treatments to heat and destroy hair follicles.

Women who have PCOS and who are overweight may be able to reduce unwanted hair growth by reaching a healthy weight.

Some women prefer to use various home treatments for unwanted hair. These include shaving, waxing, and other methods to remove the hair.

What causes hirsutism?

Hirsutism is common in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This syndrome affects your hormone balance, ovulation, and menstrual periods.

In some women, hirsutism may be caused by higher-than-normal levels of male hormones called androgens. These hormones are found in both men and women, though men have a lot more of them. In women, androgens are produced by the ovaries or the adrenal glands.

But some women with hirsutism don't have PCOS or any other cause that can be found. Their hormone levels are normal, and so are their menstrual cycles. These women may have been born with hair follicles that are more sensitive to androgens.

Hirsutism may also occur in some women who have diabetes or who are obese.

In rare cases, the ovaries or adrenal glands may have a problem that can cause this hair growth.

What is unwanted hair (hirsutism) in women?

Hirsutism (say "HER-suh-tiz-um") is extra hair on a woman's face or body. This hair is dark and coarse. It grows in a male pattern: on the face, like a man's facial hair, or on the body, especially the chest and back.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.