Definition

Hirsutism is excess hair growth in women and children.

Whether or not hair growth is abnormal depends on:

  • A person's idea of "normal"
  • Family tendencies
  • Ethnic background

Causes

True hirsutism may be due to:

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

Risk factors include:

  • Family members with hirsutism
  • Lack of ovulation
  • Disorders of the adrenal glands
  • Use of androgens
  • Older age

Symptoms

Symptoms and signs of some disorders associated with hirsutism may include:

  • Excess hair growth (on the face, arms, legs, or chest)
  • Abnormal or absent menstrual periods
  • Decreased breast size
  • Male-pattern baldness (in a woman)
  • Deepened voice
  • Increased size of clitoris
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged ovaries
  • Enlarged adrenal glands
  • Abnormal cholesterol and glucose intolerance

Adrenal Gland

Kidney and adrenal
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests—to measure the amounts of certain hormones
  • Stimulation or suppression tests—to measure how hormone levels in the blood respond to changes
  • X-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
  • Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the inside of the body
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body

Treatment

Treatment is directed at the underlying cause of the hirsutism and may include:

Local Hair Removal

Methods of removing hair include:

  • Shaving
  • Chemical treatment (depilatories)
  • Waxing
  • Electrolysis
  • Laser treatment
  • Bleaching

Combination Treatment

Researchers are also looking into combining treatment options for patients diagnosed with hirsutism. A study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that elfornithine 13.9% cream in addition to laser treatments further reduces unwanted facial hair for up to six months. *

Treatment of Other Conditions

If you are diagnosed with a condition that may be causing hirsutism, proper treatment may resolve the hirsutism.

Prevention

Hirsutism may be prevented by treating the underlying cause.