Being hirsute is a condition in which a female has a huge amount of unwanted hair. Usually, females have very fine hair covering their bodies, which is barely visible. But if this hair is thick and visible, a female will have excessive hair growth in all parts of the body like face, chest, stomach and back. This is a cause of embarrassment and distress. The hair is just as it grows on males, and women suffering from the condition will start developing hair on the upper lip, chin and sideburns, just like that of men. They may develop thick hair on the body, around the nipples and lower abdomen. Hirsutism is caused by genetic factors. Sometimes this starts just after puberty or after menopause, in which cases it is due to hormones. Changes in medication could also trigger changes in the hormonal balance, with a resultant effect on body hair.
The causes of hirsutism are genes, hormones, or medication.
Genes: Sometimes hirsutism runs in families. Certain families carry this condition in their gene down the generations. No genetic cure has been found yet. Till then, there is little that a woman can do about it except remove the hair by the available methods.
Hormones: Hormonal changes also trigger this condition. Women have small quantities of the male hormone called androgens. If these increase for whatever reason, hirsutism will result. Testosterone also causes changes in the body such as increasing the body size and encouraging hair growth. Another reason is the high levels of insulin in women. Insulin causes androgen production and is thus a cause of hirsutism.
Types of Hirsutism
Hirsutism refers to excess hair among females due to excess male hormones. It is just like male hair growth. This is different from merely having excessive hair, which is referred to as hypertrichosis. That is why there are changes in appearance among hirsute women such as voice becoming male-like, receding of hairline, acne, small breasts and other male-like changes in the body. Obesity is also associated with hirsutism condition.
There are two types of the condition. Idiopathic hirsutism occurs when it does not have any identifiable cause and appears to be hereditary. When the condition can be because of hormones causing irregular menstruation, and the females start acquiring masculine traits like reduced breasts, large muscles, and a husky, deeper tone of voice. It is called secondary hirsutism and is often curable.
Hirsutism is because of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), in which small cysts form in the ovaries. Another reason is high levels of cortisol, called Cushing’s syndrome. Tumours can also cause adrenal glands to malfunction. Changes in medication, especially drugs with hormones or steroids may trigger hair growth. Such conditions are curable. Women suffering from these conditions should seek the advice of a doctor.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is important to have the condition diagnosed as it could result in tumours. Diagnosis consists of analysing patient history and an examination to find out the exact causes of the onset of hirsutism.
If the causes of hirsutism are genetic, a control strategy and removal of excess hair is suggested. Removal of hair from the face is of prime importance as it affects one’s appearance and confidence. Facial hair can be removed by several methods, such as shaving, waxing, tweezing, electrolysis or by laser hair treatment. The doctor prescribes drugs such as androgen blockers which decreases the production of androgen in the body. Face creams containing eflornithine that slow hair growth are also available. Hair removal creams and lotions are also a great option for hair removal. Hormonal correction therapy may be suggested if hormonal imbalance is discovered.
Hirsutism affects about 5-10% of women worldwide. It is an embarrassing condition as it affects one’s face and appearance. However, if it is a genetic condition, there is nothing much one can do about it except adopting hair removing methods. Secondary hirsutism, however, can be treated. It is important to have the diagnosis done early to preclude any causes such as tumours or other long term harms. It is important to seek the advice of a specialist who can pinpoint the exact causes of hirsutism.