What is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is excessive hair growth in women, on areas where hair does not usually grow. All women experience hair growth across their whole bodies and leave a lot of areas untouched (such as the arms), but choose to remove the hair on others (such as the armpits, legs and genital region). However, it’s considered excessive hair growth when it happens in other areas such as the face (chin and upper lip in particular), chest, stomach and back.
This hair is present on all women but is usually very fine, light and short to the point where it’s virtually invisible. However, for women who suffer from hirsutism, the hair becomes darker, coarser and thicker, to the point where it’s very noticeable.
Along with the excessive hair growth some women may often experience other symptoms such as acne, other dermatological issues, deeper voice and an enlarged clitoris.
What causes Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is caused by an excess production or action of hormones called androgens, secreted by the ovaries or adrenal glands and produced locally in the hair follicle. Several different conditions can lead to hirsutism. The two most common causes of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and idiopathic hirsutism. Both are diagnosed by a physical examination, medical and family history, and sometimes blood tests.
Polycystic ovary syndrome — Women with PCOS often have hirsutism in combination with menstrual irregularities. Women with PCOS may also have acne and balding near the front of the head. PCOS is a chronic condition, but several treatments can reduce hair growth. Women with PCOS often have irregular menstrual cycles because they are not ovulating each month.
PCOS is also associated with other medical problems, such as infertility (due to irregular menstrual cycles), obesity, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol levels, and possibly heart disease. Effective treatments for PCOS are available. (See "Patient education: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (Beyond the Basics)".)
Idiopathic hirsutism — Idiopathic hirsutism refers to hirsutism that has no identifiable cause. It is usually chronic and may be a mild variation of PCOS. A gradual increased growth of coarse body hair is typically the only symptom in women with this condition. Menstrual cycles are normal in women with idiopathic hirsutism.
How can I treat Hirsutism?
It is down to each individual to decide if they want treatment or not; some women who experience Hirsutism may not feel the need to remove the hair. However, a lot of women can find that it has a detrimental effect on their self-esteem and confidence, causing stress and even depression. If you choose to treat the hirsutism, then the progression of it will usually influence the treatment plan.
For serious cases of Hirsutism, women often choose to seek medical treatment. The first line of treatment could be an anti-androgen medication (certain contraceptive pills), which has shown to be very effective in reducing excessive hair. However, it can take up to 6 months to begin working, so you may wish to opt for a cream, such as Vaniqa, instead or in combination. Vaniqa cream is clinically proven to effectively reduce excessive facial hair growth on women, with little to no risk of side effects and an easy application. Both of these treatment options are available at Cloud Pharmacy. With the help of our friendly medical team, we’ll be able to help you choose what’s right for you.
If your condition is mild (or you just don’t want to use medication), then the traditional methods of hair removal are also options. Shaving, waxing, plucking, threading and bleaching can all reduce the appearance of hair, however, they each come with their own set of downsides (such as upkeep, pain, and regrowth appearance). There are also longer-term self-administered solutions, such as laser hair removal and electrolysis, which can both be effective, but they can be painful and expensive.
There are some lifestyle factors which may encourage hair growth in women and increase the severity of hirsutism. Having control of your weight can reduce the production of androgens (reducing the hair growth).