Waxing, tweezing, and shaving are often dreaded tasks. Why does it seem like some women have more hair than others and just can’t seem to make it go away?
If you are one of the women that have excess hair growth in places like the face, chest, and back you are not alone. This condition is called hirsutism and is most often caused by excess male hormones such as testosterone.
Hirsutism is characterized by excessive dark body hair that grows on a woman’s body in uncommon areas such as the face, chest, abdomen, and back. Symptoms will vary in severity and some people will have different options on what is considered excessive hair growth.
When women have high levels of male hormones, over time it may lead to a process called virilization. Symptoms of virilization include deep voice, balding, acne, decreased breast size, increased muscle mass, and enlarged clitoris. There are factors that may increase your likelihood of developing hirsutism such as obesity and being from Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or South Asian ancestry.
There are several possible causes of hirsutism which include:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This condition may cause hirsutism because there is an imbalance of sex hormones. It can lead to excess hair growth, menstruation problems, infertility, and obesity.
Cushing Syndrome: An excess production of cortisol caused by adrenal gland issues or medications can cause Cushing syndrome.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: This is a genetic condition related to hormones. The body produces too many steroid hormones such as cortisol and androgen.
Tumors: Sometimes tumors in the ovaries or adrenal glands can cause an over secretion of androgen.
Medications: Some medications such as minoxidil, danazol, and dehydroepiandrosterone cause excess hair growth.
Unknown Causes: In many cases the cause of hirsutism is unknown and unidentifiable.
To diagnose hirsutism your healthcare provider will do an exam, ask you questions, and likely order blood work. If an underlying cause is found then it should be addressed. Oftentimes this involves medications that will affect hormone levels. If there is no identifiable cause then medical treatment is not necessary.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, October 12). Hirsutism. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 4, 2022