Hirsutism is a condition that results in excessive hair growth in women. This doesn't just mean the odd unwanted hair, but rather dense dark hair growth on areas such as the upper lip, chin, chest, neck, lower abdomen, anal area, and front of the thighs. Women with this condition may also experience acne developing on their face, back and chest, hair loss on the scalp, oily skin, changes in their voice or an enlarged clitoris. These are all signs that your body may be particularly sensitive to male hormones, known as androgens, or that it might be producing too much naturally.
Hirsutism is believed to run in families, but it can also develop in women who are obese or have polycystic ovary syndrome. After the menopause women tend to become more sensitive to the effects of androgen so it therefore tends to be more likely in post-menopausal women.
Hirsutism doesn't affect men, but this type of hair growth can develop in men as well as women with a condition known as hypertrichosis. This condition has nothing to do with a sensitivity to androgens, but can develop as a result of genetics or as a result of using particular medications.
The root cause of the excessive hair growth associated with hirsutism is caused by specific male hormones known as androgens. Of these, testosterone is probably the most well-known, although it's not the only hormone responsible. In pre-menopausal women, androgen levels can become imbalanced as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, tumours, drugs or acromegaly. It's also likely that hormone levels in pre-menopausal women may be completely normal, but that sensitivity to androgens has developed.
During the menopause, hormone levels can also change and sometimes androgen levels can remain elevated afterwards, resulting in the condition's signature hair growth.
Women with this condition have various hair removal options available to them and many of them can be used in combination with one and other, to compensate for hair removal treatments that aren't working as quickly at the start as you need them to.
Contraceptives with an anti-androgenic effect are often used in the treatment hirsutism, the most popular being Dianette. There is also the prescription treatment Vaniqa, which is designed to slow down hair growth to the point where conventional hair removal treatments may not be necessary. Cosmetic treatments such as laser hair removal and electrolysis can be considered as they eventually render hair follicles in affected areas inactive and stops hair growth, however it can potentially cause damage to the skin and isn't an option to all ethnicities.
Conventional hair removal treatments such as shaving, waxing or bleaching can also be considered, but it's important that you visit your doctor if you start to notice excessive hair growth, as it could be a sign of a more serious condition, and it may be that dealing with the condition itself could eventually reduce unwanted hair growth.
Symptoms may include excessive, dark and thick hair growth on the chest, upper lip, chin, neck, tummy, anal area or front of thighs. As it's a sign of excessive androgen production or sensitivity, you may also notice more acne on the face, back and chest as well as hair loss; more oily skin; changes in your voice or an enlarged clitoris.
The condition itself isn't dangerous, however the underlying issues causing the symptoms might be. Sometimes dealing with the symptoms of hirsutism by waxing or shaving could result in an infection of the hair follicles, causing discomfort. The symptoms could also cause a sufferer emotional distress or embarrassment, which is also a reason why quick treatment is a necessity.
Methods like electrolysis, laser hair removal methods and other cosmetic procedures may eventually be able to render hair follicles inactive to the point where they aren't able to ever produce hair again. However, this can take time and money. Sometimes dealing with the root cause of an androgen imbalance can permanently reduce hair growth.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, tumours, or acromegaly have all been associated with hirsutism, because of how they affect hormone balances in the body.
All hair removal methods have their merits; however it's also important to understand the risks associated with particular methods. This will help you to make an informed decision. This is why we encourage you to go to your doctor before attempting any kind or hirsutism hair removal method on your own.