Dr Nigel Modern explains more about hirsutism; the problem of excessive facial hair
What is hirsutism?
Hirsutism is the term used to describe when a woman experiences excessive facial hair, which is usually thick and very dark. The excess hair will usually appear on areas where is it usually not present or if so, minimal, such as the upper lip.
What is the likelihood of experiencing hirsutism?
Your risk of developing hirsutism can depend on your family history. Although hirsutism is not believed to be hereditary, associated health conditions such as PCOS do run in families. Your ancestry may also play a part in your chances of developing the condition. Studies show that women of a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and South Asian background are more likely to develop hirsutism.
How do I know I have hirsutism?
It is perfectly normal for some women to have more hair than others, however it is not always clear for some women whether they have hirsutism. If the excess hair you are experiencing is dark and thick then you may have hirsutism.
How is hirsutism diagnosed?
If you think you have hirsutism it is advised that you seek help from a medical professional. Your hirsutism may be related to a number of underlying medical causes that a doctor could identify in order to find the most suitable treatment.
What are the causes?
Hirsutism is caused by male sex hormones called androgens. Although there are a number of different androgens, testosterone is the most well known. High levels of testosterone can be attributed to a number of underlying health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and tumours. Certain medications, particularly those for health conditions like endometriosis, can cause hirsutism. Being overweight is also a factor linked to the condition. Women experiencing the menopause will likely experience hirsutism due to the high levels of hormone changes.
Where does the excess hair grow?
Excess hair caused by hirsutism can appear on the following body parts:
• Genital area
• Front of thighs
Is hirsutism related to other conditions such as acne and hair loss?
Yes, hirsutism is usually related to other conditions like acne and hair loss, otherwise known as alopecia in women. Having oily skin, experiencing voice changes (deepening voice), decreased in breast size and having an enlarged clitoris are all symptoms linked to hirsutism.
Do only women get hirsutism?
No. Men can also be affected by hirsutism, however women primarily experience the condition, with figures showing that at least 10% of women are affected by the condition.
Which hair removal methods would you recommended to patients with hirsutism?
Initially, I would recommend cosmetic methods such as bleaching, shaving or plucking. However, if this is proving to be ineffective, you may wish to try depilatory creams, which are available over the counter and most pharmacies and supermarkets. Prescription medications for hirsutism such as Vaniqa, have also proven to be effective in managing and treating the condition.
What treatments are available for this condition?
There are various methods that can be helpful in removing unwanted hair. Topical cosmetic therapies such as shaving, plucking and waxing can be effective in the short term. However, many people find that this doesn’t provide a long-term solution and so opt for more expensive treatments such as electrolysis and laser epilation. Prescription medication can also be effective at treating hirsutism.
Contraceptive pills containing progestogens with anti-andronenic properties, such as Dianette as well as anti-androgens like Vaniqa are also available to treat this condition.
Dr Nigel Modern is a registered GP and medical director for HealthExpress.co.uk, an online clinic providing support and treatment for a number of lifestyle conditions such as weight loss, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, contraception, asthma, diabetes, hirsutism and more. Visit their website for more advice on a number of health conditions http://www.healthexpress.co.uk/