Hirsutism is a condition of excess male-pattern hair growth in women. Women who suffer from hirsutism grow excessive amounts of dark and coarse hair on body areas where men typically grow hair, such as the face, the back or the chest. But what causes hirsutism in the first place and can it be treated?
In this article, I am going to list the most common female hirsutism causes and explain them in detail.
What Is Hirsutism?
As already mentioned, hirsutism results in excess terminal hair. While the amount of your body hair is determined by your heredity and genetic makeup, having excessive hair growth and more hair on body parts, where women commonly don’t have hair, is a medical condition that can have many causes.
Women who are affected by hirsutism usually try to remove unwanted hair by shaving or trying other hair removal methods only to realize that none of these methods work to get rid of unwanted hair in the long run.
There are specific symptoms that these women have in common apart from excessive hair growth, which brings me to my next point.
Symptoms Of Hirsutism
While women of certain ethnic groups, such as Indian women, tend to have more dense and darker hair than Caucasian women, there are certain symptoms you should watch out for:
- A deepening of the voice
- Increased muscle mass
- enlargement of the clitoris
- decreased breast size
- oily skin
- hair loss (alopecia)
- receding hair line
- irregular menstrual periods
- texted, pigmented hair on body parts where men usually grow hair (face, back, chest)
Women who have a mild form of hirsutism may notice hair as thick as the hair on their scalp on their upper lip, chin, the side burn area, around the nipples or on their lower abdomen.
Women with advanced hirsutism may experience a growth of mature hair on the shoulders, upper back, upper abdomen and the sternum.
The symptoms usually start during puberty. If the symptoms start before or after puberty, the cause could be hormonal. If any of these symptoms apply to you, it is recommended to see a doctor.
What Are The Causes Of Hirsutism?
As soon as a girl hits puberty, her ovaries begin to produce a mixture of female and male hormones, which causes hair to grow in the pubic area and in the armpits.
If this hormonal mix becomes unbalanced and the male hormones (androgens) far outweigh the female hormones (estrogens), hirsutism can occur. Women usually have smaller quantities of androgens.
Another reason for hirsutism can be an oversensitivity of the hair follicles to androgens, which can cause hair loss on the scalp.
Here are common causes for hirsutism:
- Medications: Certain medications, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression, danazol for women with endometriosis or systemic corticosteroids, can cause hirsutism.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Being one of the most common causes for hirsutism, this condition is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones. This can result in obesity, infertility, multiple cysts on the ovaries or in irregular periods.
- Tumors: Although this only rarely occurs, an androgen-secreting tumor in the ovaries or adrenal glands can also cause hirsutism.
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: The characteristics of this inherited condition are an abnormal production of steroid hormones by your adrenal glands, including androgens and cortisol.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: This is a condition that occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of cortisol, which can be caused by an overproduction of cortisol in your adrenal glands or by taking medications (e.g. prednisone) over a long period of time.
- Insulin: High levels of insulin in women can also contribute to the development of hirsutism as it can stimulate the ovarian cells to produce androgens.
- Obesity: Obese people tend to have high cholesterol and diabetes, which can result in hirsutism.
- No Identifiable Cause: Sometimes, hirsutism doesn’t indicate a significant medical abnormality as it can also occur without an identifiable cause. This is called “Idiopathic hirsutism” and occurs more frequently in certain ethnic populations, such as in women of Middle Easter, Mediterranean and South Asian ancestry.
If you go to a physician, he will most likely ask you about your menstrual cycle first and check your medical history. Patients with a normal cyclic pattern of menstrual periods have a higher chance of having inherited the hirsutism, meaning the gene for it runs in the family.
If the menstrual cycle has always been irregular, polycystic ovary syndrome might be a possible reason. Therefore, it is advised to have some tests carried out. The results will show if the patient has a more serious condition, such as a tumor of the adrenal glands, the pituitary glands or the ovaries.
Measuring levels of the DHEA hormone and testosterone can check for signs of ovary tumors, adrenal gland tumors or polycystic ovary syndrome. Also, a hormone called prolactin sometimes gets measured additionally to check for signs of a tumor in the pituitary gland.
Furthermore, your cholesterol levels as well as your blood sugar may be tested as well.
In case your doctor has found the cause of your excessive hair growth, he may suggest an appropriate treatment. If overweight is the cause for instance, losing weight would be the ideal treatment as it reduces androgen levels and will lead to a decline of symptoms.
If your insulin levels are too high, lowering them would be an appropriate treatment option.
There are also some cosmetic and medical treatments that might help decrease the levels of androgens. Some birth control pills decrease the production of testosterone and may lead to an improvement as well. A commonly used medication for treating hirsutism is Spironolactone.
Another option is electrolysis, where hair gets removed with an electric current. After a few sessions, your hair should stop growing in the treated areas.
A Laser Hair Removal targets hair at the roots and will prevent further hair growth after repeating the process a few times.
The most important thing and also the first thing you will have to do is to find out what causes your excessive hair growth in the first place before you can choose the right treatment option.
It is not always easy to find a solution that will treat your symptoms, but exercising and a healthy diet can help you control your weight and lower the risks of high cholesterol and diabetes.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below and I will be more than happy to help you out!
Founder of The Hairy Solution