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Hirsutism Treatments and Causes


Hirsutism, or excessive male hair growth in women, can be a very frustrating and embarrassing condition. Said to affect 5-15% of women (, hirsutism can create intense self-consciousness, low self-esteem and discomfort. Aside from the aesthetic downsides, hirsutism can also be linked to serious health problems like endocrine disorders and infertility.

While hirsutism can be diagnosed in men, it's significantly more of an issue for women; mainly because excessive hair growth in men is socially acceptable, even if it's not desirable. Since hirsutism is primarily caused by hormonal and genetic factors, it cannot be permanently cured. But there is hope for successful long-term hirsutism treatment solutions, thanks to today's many effective hair removal options!

Do I Have Hirsutism?

The symptoms of hirsutism are pretty easy to identify. Hirsute female patients will develop dark or coarse hair on body and facial areas that are usually associated with male hair growth. Examples include the chin and jaw, the upper lip, the sides of the face, the arms, the chest, the stomach or abdomen, and the back.

Since the majority of women don't experience dark, coarse hair growth on these areas, the condition can be quite obvious when it develops. Many females with hirsutism feel less feminine as a result of this unwanted hair growth, and are eager to remove it.

Types of Hirsutism

Before hirsutism can be successfully treated, it's important to identify the type of hirsutism a patient is suffering from. While the visible symptoms of hirsutism tend to be similar for all patients, the causes of hirsutism can be varied and less clear. To help break down hirsutism causes, the general condition has been categorized into three main hirsutism types:

  • Androgenic Hirsutism
  • Idiopathic Hirsutism
  • Nonandrogenic (drug-induced) Hirsutism

Androgenic hirsutism is by far the most common and prevalent type of hirsutism in women, with causes strongly tied to genetics. Androgen production is the key to our hair growth and development, and androgens (male hormones) are responsible for our body hair's transition from vellus hair (light, short, soft) to terminal hair (dark, long, coarse). Androgen production increases during puberty and adulthood, which explains our increase in dark body hair during these times. When excess androgen production occurs, hirsutism can be a direct result.

Idiopathic hirsutism leads to excess hair growth much the same way that androgenic hirsutism does. However, patients with idiopathic hirsutism don't usually have androgen disorders, abnormal ovulation patterns, or other endocrine problems that are standard with androgenic cases. The second most common type of hirsutism, idiopathic hirsutism can be harder to diagnose. In spite of a lack of androgen disorders, patients with idiopathic hirsutism can have an excess of the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase, and a heightened androgen sensitivity; both of which can cause hirsutism. Idiopathic hirsutism can also be genetically inherited.

Nonandrogenic hirsutism, sometimes known as drug-induced hirsutism, is the rarest type of hirsutism. Nonandrogenic hirsutism will usually develop in conjunction with anabolic medication use, or through use of another drug that interferes with hormone metabolization. If the doctor rules out any androgen disorders, and if the patient's levels of 5 alpha-reductase appear normal, all current medications and personal cosmetics should be considered as a possible cause of their hirsutism condition.

Root Causes of Hirsutism

Now that we've identified the three main types of hirsutism, let's list some specific causes for this condition. If you currently suffer from excessive male hair growth, and one or more items on this list is personally relevant for you, you may have discovered an important key to treating your hirsutism! The following list includes some common causes of hirsutism, broken down by hirsutim type:

Androgenic hirsutism

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hyperandrogenism
  • Androgenic tumors
  • Cushing's Syndrome
  • Acromegaly

Idiopathic hirsutism

  • Heightened androgen sensitivity
  • Excess 5 alpha-reductase action
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Being of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean or European descent

Nonandrogenic (drug-induced) hirsutism

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Danazol (Danocrine)
  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
  • Methyldopa (Aldomet)
  • Progestins
  • Reserpine (Serpasil)
  • Phenothiazines
  • Minoxidil

The risk of developing hirsutism later in life can be great, even for women who didn't experience it in their youth. Since the amount of coarse body hair tends to increase or accumulate faster as we age, elderly women are extremely susceptible to unwanted excess body hair.

Other potential causes of hirsutism can include certain disorders like ovarian tumors and cancers, even virilization connected to congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Additionally, hirsutism and these other disorders can develop in childhood, adolescence or in adulthood.

If you suspect that health conditions like PCOS or Cushing's Syndrome may be causing your hirsutism, this should be brought to your doctor's attention immediately.

Treatments for Hirsutism

As mentioned earlier, there is no known cure for hirsutism. But, there are extremely effective hair removal methods in use today that can eliminate excessive hair growth for long periods of time. Some of these popular hair removal methods include:

All of these hair removal treatments are proven to remove unwanted hair for patients with hirsutism. All of these hirsutism treatments may differ, however, in terms of their efficacy, safety risks, length of results, and their convenience. Your choice of hirsutism hair removal treatment will depend on your personal preference, your individual skin and hair type, and the hirsute areas intended for treatment.

Even though the potential risks of hirsutism hair removal treatments are low, it's still wise to be informed and educated about them. Patients with extremely sensitive skin and/or allergies to certain waxes or treatments will want to carefully evaluate their method of hirsutism treatment.

The length of results can be one of the most important factors for choosing a hirsutism treatment. With that in mind, here are the previously mentioned hirsutism treatments, listed in order from longest-lasting results to the shortest-lived results:

  • Electrolysis for hirsutism
  • Laser Hair Removal for hirsutism
  • Waxing for hirsutism
  • Plucking for hirsutism
  • Threading for hirsutism
  • Shaving for hirsutism

Basically, hirsutism treatments that remove or treat unwanted hairs at the root (plucking, waxing, laser hair removal, electrolysis), as opposed to the hair shaft (shaving, threading), will provide the most lengthy treatment results for hirsutism patients. Root hair removal methods actually damage or attack the follicle root bulb where hair growth originates; this is why methods like electrolysis and laser hair removal provide the most permanent or long-term hirsutism treatment results.

Which Hirsutism Treatment is Right for Me?

Choosing from one of these hirsutism treatments can be a difficult chore. By meeting with a professional hair removal provider or dermatologist for a treatment consultation, hirsutism patients will gain a better understanding of their options.

Be sure to listen to your hirsutism treatment provider's recommendations. Based on your existing medical conditions or current prescriptions, some hirsutism hair removal treatments may be more appropriate for you than others. To learn more about your hirsutism condition, as well as which hair removal options will be best suited to your needs, we recommend consulting with a knowledgeable hair removal provider in your area. They can give you the most accurate and up-to-date info about treating hirsutism, and start scheduling your hirsutism treatments right away!

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