About the disease
Hirsutism is characterized by hair growth on parts of the female body where hair does not normally grow: the face, nipples and the back in some cases. In some cultures, excessive hair growth in women is considered normal, because it is passed on from generation to generation. Some think that excessive hair on a woman’s body is a sign of good temperament and character. However, it can also be a sign of disease, especially if hirsutism is not common in the woman’s family.
In most cases, hirsutism in women is caused by an excessive amount of the androgen hormone. It is present in both males and females, but is found in larger amounts in males. The most well-known androgen hormone is testosterone, which is responsible for masculine traits; it is vital for a man’s physical and mental development as well as his sexual and behavioural characteristics.
Women who have a hormonal imbalance may produce an excess amount of androgen hormones. As a consequence, not only might hair start growing in unusual places, their voice may also become deeper and their muscle mass may increase. At the same time, their breast size may become reduced and they may go bald. Changes in general behaviour can also develop. A woman may become more aggressive and impatient. This is then a medical condition, which needs to be treated.
In girls, both male and female hormones are produced in the ovaries and are first produced during puberty. However, if a girl suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome or any other disease of the ovaries, she can develop a hormonal imbalance, which can lead to an excess of male hormones being produced by her body. In some cases, hirsutism is caused by a tumor or an excessive intake of medications that influence a woman’s hormonal count.
- Excessive hair growth on face, back and breasts
- Behaviour changes
- Voice changes
- Increase of muscle mass
- Reduction of breast size
- During a general examination, the gynecologist will examine the patient’s pelvic floor to check for any abnormalities.
- The doctor will ask the patient if she has regular periods and whether they are particularly painful.
- The doctor will ask the patient if hirsutism is common in her family.
- An ultrasound and other imaging tests will be performed, to check for cysts or tumors on or around the ovaries.
- Hormone tests check the levels of female and male hormones in the patient’s system. This will establish whether or not the patient is suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
- Conservative treatment, such as hormone replacement therapy, helps to normalize the patient’s hormonal count.
- Usually the patient will be prescribed oral contraceptives, which contain female hormones, in order to normalize the levels of estrogens and progestins in her body.
- In severe cases, the patient may be prescribed anti-androgens to inhibit the production of male hormones in her body.
- Laser therapy can also be an effective way of removing unwanted hair on the body.