Help & Advice
What is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is a condition of excessive hair growth affecting up to 15% of premenopausal women. After menopause, however, up to 75% of women experience an increase in hair growth in unwanted places.
What are the symptoms of Hirutism?
In hirsutism the hair exhibits:
- Stiff and pigmented qualities
- Male pattern growth appearing on the body where women do not typically grow thick, dark hair such as the:
- Chest and stomach (from the belly button to the pubic hair)
What causes Hirsutism?
- Excessive amounts of the male sex hormones called androgens
- Increased sensitivity to androgens leading to an over response of the body to normal androgen levels
- Conditions that alter the balance of female hormones in the body such as:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- There are often no identifiable causes (10% of cases)
- Women of particular ethnic groups are more likely to be affected (e.g. those of Mediterranean ancestry)
Are there any complications related to Hirsutism?
- Psychological symptoms
- Can cause one to feel self-conscious or even depressed
- Other conditions may occur alongside hirsutism, which could be indicative of excessively high androgen levels. These include:
- Acne and oily skin
- Deepening of voice
- Baldness or receding hair line
- Enlarged clitoris
How is Hirsutism treated?
A combination approach using the following treatments often gives the best results.
- Self-care methods include:
- Plucking, shaving, waxing and chemical depilatories to remove unwanted hair
- Bleaching to lighten hair making it less visible
- Hair-removal therapies and procedures include:
- Electrolysis and laser therapy
- Medications include:
- Topical cream
- Vaniqa (eflornithine) is the only topical prescription treatment that slows the growth of facial hair.
- Works at the root by inhibiting an enzyme essential for hair growth. Although it slows new growth, Vaniqa has no effect on existing hair.
- Can be used in combination with all other treatment options and may reduce the need to remove hair by other means as frequently
- Oral Medications
- Oral Contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin
- Work by inhibiting androgen production by the ovaries
- Work by blocking androgens from attaching to androgen receptors in the body
- Must be taken with oral contraceptives in those of child-bearing age as they can cause birth defects
Because hair growth is a slow process, it may take around six months for certain treatments to work so it is important to be patient when treating hirsutism.