Hirsutism: Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, And More

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Everyone has their struggles. But when it comes to hormonal issues, females are a little more prone to them.

The menstrual cycle(21-35) day cycle on top of the 24-hour cycle makes even the simplest of all things big trouble.

Hair is one of the most beautiful features a female possesses. However, a little hormonal imbalance can make it a big mess.

Too much hair on the face, back, chest and thighs may get uncomfortable for some ladies. It might bring a struggle of constant threading, waxing, and shaving.

Even despite the number of cases, most women are unaware that it is a medical condition called hirsutism.

If you are also looking for detailed information about hirsutism, don’t worry, this article has got you covered. 

Hirsutism is a condition in which excessive hair growth is observed on different parts of the body. It is a condition that affects females assigned by birth.

The hair that appears is darker in color and also stiffer often considered to be similar to those of men. 

These grow on body parts like the face, back, inner thighs, stomach, and sometimes the whole body.

This thick hair growth is due to excessive hormones called androgens and sometimes also due to primary testosterone. It is different from the light hair that appears on the face and body of females.

Those are often termed peach fuzz. The main way to distinguish between the two is the texture. Peach fuzz is light and the hair that grows due to hirsutism is dark and coarse.

Women in southern Asia, the middle east, and the Mediterranean region are likely to develop this condition. It also runs in the bloodline i.e. it is genetic.

So if the females in your family already have a history of hirsutism, you are more likely to develop this condition than others. 

It is not a serious threat to health or a major risk factor but may have several underlying problems.

What Other Signs Can Be Seen During Hirsutism? 

Since this condition is caused by increased androgen levels, other symptoms that might appear due to the same cause are,

What Are The Causes Of Hirsutism? 

The primary cause of hirsutism is hormonal imbalance. It is caused by the excessive production of androgens. These are low in females by birth.

A sudden spike in the hormone or if the skin becomes sensitive towards the hormone may cause hirsutism.

Although the main reason is excessive androgen production, several hidden factors may lead to hormonal imbalance which in turn causes hirsutism.

  1. PCOS

    PCOS is one of the leading concerns of female health. This syndrome affects those females more that are obese or has a family history of PCOS.

    It starts with the development of cysts in the ovary. It also causes several other symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain, acne, hair thinning, and skin tags.

    One of these PCOS-induced troubles is hirsutism. As per statistics, 85% of cases of hirsutism are caused by females suffering from PCOS. 

  1. Adrenal Gland Disorder

    As the name suggests, adrenal gland disorders are related to the improper functioning of adrenal glands and the health conditions that may cause it.

    Any abnormality with the adrenal gland affects the production of testosterone.

    If you have adrenal gland disorder then you might be suffering from-

    • High blood pressure
    • Bone weakness and muscle strength loss
    • Headache
    • Weight gain or sudden weight loss
    • Fatigue
    • Irregular periods
    • Loss of libido
    • High or low blood sugar levels

    The main adrenal disorders that cause hirsutism are,

    • Adrenal Tumor: Tumors in the adrenal gland increase the production of the hormone Prolactin. Sometimes the tumor is androgen-producing hormones which may lead to hirsutism.
    • Adrenal Cancer: Any type of cancer in the adrenal glands may also affect hormone production leading to hirsutism.
    • Cushing Disease: This disease increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
    • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: It causes a loss of enzymes by birth which is important for the production of hormones. It also affects the production of androgen and cortisol.
  1. Genetic Reason

    If it runs in the bloodline and any of your close relatives have this problem, you are more likely to develop hirsutism. 

  1. Geographical Reason

    As discussed above, females of Southern Asia, the Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern regions have darker and stiffer hair growth than those in other parts of the globe.

  1. Medications

    Taking certain medicines can increase the chances of creating hormones and imbalance and inducing excessive hair growth. 

    The first one is hair growth medicines like minoxidil. Synthetic testosterone called anabolic steroids, testosterone shots or pills and immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine is the names of few such medications.

    Others can be estrogen, androgen, glucocorticosteroids,  d-penicillamine, and many more.

What Is The Difference Between Hirsutism And Hypertrichosis? 

Hirsutism is the excessive dark hair growth on parts like the face, back, and stomach. On the other hand, hypertrichosis is also called werewolf syndrome.

That is because the entire body is covered with hair. Hirsutism can be understood as a subcategory of hypertrichosis.

How Is Hirsutism Diagnosed? 

Hirsutism is a self-diagnosable condition that you can tell by your excessive hair growth. To get a confirmation, having a word with the doctor will help.

He/ she might take a detail of your medical history, and medications and conduct blood tests to check for hormonal imbalance. An ultrasound or MRI of ovaries or adrenal may also be conducted if a tumor or cyst is suspected.

What Are The Treatments Of Hirsutism? 

Hirsutism has a variety of treatments depending on the cause. 

  1. Weight Management

    If the underlying cause of hirsutism is obesity, you must try weight loss techniques. Running, weight lifting and exercises like cardio may help. It may ensure that hormonal levels are balanced. 

  1. Antiandrogen Medications

    As androgen is the cause behind hirsutism, using anti-androgen medicines to reduce androgen production by blocking androgen receptors will help control excessive hormone fluctuations. One such drug is spironolactone. 

  1. Combination Of Birth Controls

    It is a long-term drug therapy that starts showing impact after 3-6 months of use. These birth control pills are a mixture of progesterone and estrogen.

    Estrogen may also prevent balding. This helps shrink the cyst in the ovaries and treat PCOS.

  1. Eflornithine Cream

    This cream is prescribed to control hair growth on the face. It interacts with chemicals trapped under hair follicles under the skin.

    So, it slows down hair growth. However, it might have side effects like redness, itching, or rashes.

  1. Laser Treatment

    Laser treatment makes use of concentrated light rays to damage hair follicles. As a result, the dead follicles cannot produce hair and the remaining hair fall off.

    It might take a few treatments to see effective results. It is a nearly permanent treatment but it comes with a few risks.

    Blisters, inflammation, and change in skin tone are commonly observed issues. 

  1. Electrolysis

    This method involves the insertion of needles into hair follicles. These are then destroyed by the pulse of electric current.

    It is a better option for people with light-colored hair. However, it can be painful. Therefore, numbing cream is used to decrease discomfort to some extent.

  1. Home Remedies

    There are several inexpensive methods one can follow at home to help manage excessive hair growth.
    • Plucking the hair with tweezers and thread at home is an affordable option. However, it is only useful for limited patches of hair and the hair might grow back quickly.
    • Bleaching the hair with some lighter color helps hide the hair and makes them less visible or eye-catchy.
    • Shaving is a quick and budget-friendly process. However, it can be cumbersome and need repetitive sessions. Rashes and bruises are other issues related to shaving.
    • Waxing gives a better and smooth finish and may even last longer than shaving as it uproots the hair. However, hot wax can cause burns, and pulling the skin may cause uneasiness, itching, and rashes.
    • Depilation is a chemical alternative that dissolves the hair of the area where it is applied. These can be in form of gel, creams, and lotions. However, they might irritate the skin, make it sensitive or cause dermatitis.

Complications With Hirsutism

Hirsutism does not cause any major harm. Although, overgrown dark hair affects the confidence of females. In the long run, it can take the face of depression and anxiety.

Although hirsutism itself will not cause weight changes, PCOS, or emotional imbalance, the underlying hormonal balance may lead to these problems. 

Conclusion

Hirsutism is the condition of dark and thick hair growth on the face, stomach, and back. This is only limited to females.

The hormone androgen plays a big role in causing this condition. Other problems one might face simultaneously with hirsutism is balding, weight gain, acne, PCOS, depression, and many more.

Although it is not a big health concern, some females are uncomfortable with abnormal growth. In such situations, a combination of medications and home remedies may help.

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