Hirsutism: what it is and what causes it?

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 Laser Hair Removal.
Hirsutism, girl standing looking at a train

What is Hirsutism?

Hirsutism is an excess hair growth in women. Hirsutism refers to the growth of course, dark hair in areas where women typically grow fine hair or no hair at all; the upper lip, chin, side of face, chest, abdomen and back. The growth pattern of hirsutism in women is similar to that of normal growth in males. The main difference between normal hair on a women’s face and body and hirsutism is the texture.

What causes excess hair growth?

The excess hair growth can be caused by an increase level of male hormones (androgens). All females produce androgens, but the levels normally remain low. Certain medical conditions can cause a women to produce too many androgens, causing male pattern hair growth.

Our culture can determine how much hair is cosmetically acceptable and how important it is to remove excessive hair. The psychological impact of hirsutism can range from annoying to severely disabling.

Women with excess hair growth need to be evaluated by a doctor. In the vast majority of cases hirsutism is not caused by a serious medical condition however, the cause should be determined and the underlying causes treated.

How to diagnose Hirsutism

  • Blood tests – to measure hormone levels
  • Ultrasound and/or MRI of your ovaries, adrenal glands – this may be necessary to check for the presence of tumors or cysts

Potential additional causes

  • Excess hair growth in women tends to run in families. You may be more likely to have unwanted hair growth if your mother, sister or female relative has it as well.
  • Race and ethnicity can play a role – Asian women for example tend to have little body hair, whereas Middle Eastern and Mediterranean women tend to have moderate to large amounts of body hair.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – PCOS is one common cause of hirsutism. Benign cysts that form on the ovaries can affect the hormone production. Women with PCOS often have hirsutism.
  • Other forms of hormonal imbalances, adrenal gland disorders – adrenal cancer, adrenal tumors, cushing disease (higher than normal levels of cortisol), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (born without an enzyme necessary for hormonal production)
  • Medication – for example, minoxidil, phenytoin, cyclosporine, androgens, anabolic steroids, progestins (which are sometimes contained in oral contraceptives)

If you feel your hair growth is excessive see your doctor. If you have a hormonal imbalance and are not being treated, then your laser hair removal will either not be effective or will be very, very slow. If your hormone levels are being stabilised, you can treat normally with laser hair removal.

In the next article, we will discuss the difference between electrolysis and laser hair removal.

I hope you found this article on Hirsutism valuable. If you have any questions about hair removal or other skin treatments, I invite you to contact the clinic. It will be our pleasure to answer your questions.

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Lorie Docker

Lorie Docker

Lorie Docker is considered to be one of Montreal’s top experts in skin analysis and non-surgical anti-aging treatments. Lorie has been featured and quoted as an acknowledged expert on medical esthetics in several newspaper articles, and has appeared on Global's "This Morning Live" television show, and CJAD's "Health Show”.
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Lorie Docker

Author: Lorie Docker

Lorie Docker is considered to be one of Montreal’s top experts in skin analysis and non-surgical anti-aging treatments. Lorie has been featured and quoted as an acknowledged expert on medical esthetics in several newspaper articles, and has appeared on Global’s “This Morning Live” television show, and CJAD’s “Health Show”.