Hirsutism – Symptoms, Causes, Complications and Risk factors

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Hirsutism is a term which is used to describe the unwanted male – pattern hair growth in women. The hirsuitism is resulting in excessive amount of dark and course hair on the body areas where men typically grow hair – back, chest and face. The genetic makeup is determining the amount of your body hair. There is a big range of normal hair distribution, color and thickness due to the differences in the heredity. But the hirsuitism is a medical condition and it can happen due to excess male hormones known as androgens, primarily testosterone. Also this can be caused by a family trait. The combination of self – care and medical therapies can help many women who suffer from hirsuitism.

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Contents

Hirsutism Symptoms

This condition is characterized by stiff and dark body hairs which are appearing on the body where women do not commonly have hair, primarily face, chest and back. What is considered as excessive body hair can vary depending on the culture and ethnicity. When you have excessively high androgen levels which are cause for the hirsutism, then other signs can happen over time and this process is known as virilization. Here are some signs of virilization:

  • Enlargement of the clitoris
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Decreased breast size
  • Acne
  • Balding
  • Deepening voice

Hirsutism Causes

When girls are in the puberty, then their ovaries begin to produce a mix of male and female sex hormones which is causing hair to grow in the armpits and public area. If there is a too high proportion of male sex hormones (also known as androgens), then the hirsutism can become unbalanced. Here are some causes for hirsutism:

  • Medications: There are some medications which can lead to hirsutism. These medications are including systemic corticosteroids and fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression and danazol which is used to treat women with endometriosis.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: This is inherited condition which is characterized by abnormal production of the steroid hormones, like androgen and cortisol, by the adrenal glands.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: This is the most common cause for hirsutism which is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones which can result in infertility, obesity, irregular periods and in some cases multiple cysts on the ovaries.
  • Tumors: There are rare cases when the androgen – secreting tumor in the ovaries or adrenal glands can lead to hirsutism.
  • Cushing’s syndrome: This is happening when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol. It can happen from taking medications, such as prednisone over a long period or from your adrenal glands making too much cortisol.

There are some cases when the cause for hirsuitism cannot be identified. This can happen more frequently in certain populations, such as South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ancestry.

Hirsutism Risk factors

There are some factors which can increase your risk of developing hirsutism, such as

  • Obesity: When you are obese, then it causes increased androgen production which can worsen the hirsutism.
  • Ancestry: There are many studies in which are shown that women from South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ancestry are having more chances of developing hirsutism with no identifiable cause compared with other women.
  • Family history: There are several conditions which run in families and they can cause hirsutism, such as polycystic ovary syndrome and adrenal hyperplasia.

Hirsutism Complications

This condition can be emotionally distressing. There are some women who feel self – conscious about having unwanted body hair while other women develop depression. The hirsutism does not cause physical complications but the underlying cause for the hormonal imbalance can cause. Those women who have hirsutism and irregular periods may have polycystic ovary syndrome which can inhibit fertility. Those women who are taking certain medications to treat the hirsuitism should avoid pregnancy because this is increasing the risk for birth defects. Generally, hirsutism is not preventable. If you are overweight and you lose weight, then you may reduce hirsutism, especially if you suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome.

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