Hirsutism is a condition where there is presence of excessive or unwanted hair in women. In this condition, hair grows on areas of the body where normally men have hair, like the face, back or chest. Our hair growth is usually determined by our genes and excess hair growth may be due to presence of the male hormone called androgens and testosterone in excess. Hirsutism may also be due to a family trait. This condition can cause women to feel distressed about their looks and get extremely self conscious.
The sign of having hirsutism is appearance of coarse hair primarily but other signs may develop over time like balding, enlargement of clitoris, decrease in breast size, balding and deepening of the voice. When a girl starts to mature sexually, the finer hairs on the body start to darken and become coarse. But excessive or unwanted hair growth can result from excess androgens in women. High levels of androgen can be caused by the following:
- Medications: Certain medications can cause the condition of hirsutism in women.
- Cushing's syndrome: This occurs when the body is exposed to high levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol cause imbalance of the sex hormones in the body causing hirsutism in women.
- Polycystic ovary Syndrome: This is due to disruption in balance of the sex hormones which causes obesity, irregular periods and cysts on the ovaries. This is one of the most common causes of hirsutism.
Women with family history of polycystic ovary syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia are at the risk of developing excessive or unwanted hair in women. Also Middle Eastern, South Asian and Mediterranean women are more likely to have the condition of hirsutism. Blood tests may be done by the doctor to check the levels of androgen hormone present in the body and if the level is very high, ultrasound or CT scans may be done.
For treating Hirsutism, there are medical and hair removal therapies available. Hair removal Therapy includes processes like Laser therapy and Electrolysis. In Laser therapy, a laser is passed over the skin to disable the hair follicles. This stops the hair from growing and can be effective for a long time in some cases. For some women, this process can cause burns, redness, color changes and swelling. These laser sessions can last for a few minutes to a few hours depending on the area and size of the area being treated. Electrolysis is a procedure where tiny needles are inserted into the follicles and damage is done to the follicles by emitting a pulse of electric current. This process can be painful and cause change of color of skin.
Medical therapies may include taking oral contraceptive pills, anti androgens and applying cream. Oral contraceptives stop the production of androgen, anti androgens block androgen from attaching to their receptors and the creams are directly applied to the area where there is excessive or unwanted hair in women. These creams do not remove the present hair but aids in slowing down the growth of new hair. These treatments may take time to show effect.
The other ways to get rid of excessive or unwanted hair in women are by waxing, shaving, plucking or by using depilatories. Another way to deal with hirsutism is by making the hair less visible by bleaching.
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