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Hirsutism in Women – Symptoms and Causes

Hirsutism in Women - Symptoms and Causes

Hirsutism is a condition in women that results in a male hair growth pattern. Excessive dark or coarse hair growth occurs in areas where women do not develop terminal hair during puberty under normal conditions, such as chest, abdomen, back, and face.

Symptoms of Hirsutism

The signs and symptoms of Hirsutism usually depend on its underlying cause, but sometimes it may also include the following-

●  There might be a sudden change in the rate of hair growth, hair color, distribution, or thickness of hair.

●     There might be excessive body hair in -places that are typically ‘male’ areas, such as the back, inner thighs, face, abdomen, and buttocks.

●  There might be hair loss on the scalp.

●  There might be other skin conditions such as Seborrhoea or Acne.

●  There might be some development of Warts within the skin folds.

●  There might be an unexplained increase in the sex drive.

●  There might be masculine characteristics such as increased muscle mass or deepened voice.

●  Menstrual periods may be irregular or absent.

●  There might be high levels of insulin.

Causes Of Hirsutism

The main factors causing Hirsutism are listed below:

● Increased Levels Of Androgen

In many cases, women produce more than the required amount of Androgen or develop an over-sensitivity of hair follicles to Androgens. At high levels, hormones such as testosterone stimulate hair growth and result in an overall masculinization, causing acne, deepening of the voice, and increased muscle mass. This condition is termed Hyperandrogenism.

● PCOS or PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome

It is a common hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries in women. It causes an imbalance of sex hormones and an increased Androgen level resulting in irregular menstruation, Obesity, and sometimes infertility. PCOS causes Hirsutism too, in many cases.

● Medications

Certain medications also cause Hirsutism as a side effect. These include medicines for treating Endometriosis viz., Minoxidil and Danazol; Testosterone, Glucocorticoids, and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

● Tumors

Ovarian tumors such as Granulosa, Gynandroblastoma, Sertoli–Leydig cell tumors (Neuroblastomas), and Thecomas may also cause this disease in rare cases.

● Type-2 Diabetes

This disease is also common in women with insulin resistance, a symptom of Type-2 Diabetes. A high insulin level can also activate insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) receptors in similar cells, increasing Androgen production. Type-2 Diabetes can also cause Obesity, making it a risk factor for Hirsutism.

● High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can also be a cause of Hirsutism.

● Medications

Doses of Antiandrogens are generally present in the medications for blocking the effects of Androgens like Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and Testosterone. These may be combined with birth control pills. In case Hirsutism is caused by overactive adrenal glands, low-dose steroid medications may also be administered.

● Weight loss

Bringing in a change in lifestyle and losing weight if the person is overweight can lower the Androgen levels and reduce excessive hair.

● Laser Hair Removal

Many laser techniques use the exposure of laser light to generate heat inside hair follicles, thereby destroying the ability of hair to grow from the follicle. The light targets the pigments present in hair, so this technique works better on dark hair than light.

● Temporary Hair Removal

Standard methods such as shaving, bleaching, waxing, tweezing, etc., can be used at home to remove unwanted hair. Hirsutism may also lead to embarrassment or cause depression. That is why an individual may have to use cosmetic approaches to reduce their Androgen levels. As a result, their hair follicles are produced automatically.

Some cosmetic approaches to the disease are as follows-

1. Plucking

2. Shaving

3.  Waxing

4. Using chemical hair softeners

5. Using depilatory creams

These approaches may irritate the skin, and also need to be repeated multiple times for continuous desired effects. They may irritate the hair follicle and cause acne. Shaving is the simplest and safest method if done regularly. Waxing and Tweezing, however, address only the excessive hair, not the cause of the disease.

● Self-care

If any of the medications cause side effects such as weight gain, depression, or fatigue, the doctor may prescribe a different medication or an altered dose.

● Losing Some Weight

Losing extra weight can help lower the level of Androgens in the body if the disease is caused due to PCOS. Even losing 5% of body weight can bring about a significant change.

● Growth Inhibitors

A prescription cream formulated to inhibit hair growth may be applied. However, it may take about two months to show noticeable results when used regularly. Also, it works in one out of three women.

Hirsutism is generally a symptom of some underlying problem rather than being a medical condition on its own.

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