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Hypertrichosis; Hirsutism; Hair - excessive (women); Excessive hair in women; Hair - women - excessive or unwanted
The normal amount of body hair varies widely among women. Usually, a woman will only grow fine hair (peach fuzz) on her lips, chin, chest, abdomen, or back. When women grow coarse, dark hairs in these areas, the condition is called hirsutism. This pattern of hair growth is more typical of men.
All women normally produce low levels of male hormones (androgens). Unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) in women may occur when the body makes too much male hormone.
In most cases, the exact cause is never identified. It tends to run in families. In general, hirsutism is a harmless condition. But many women find it bothersome, or even embarrassing.
A common cause is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS and other hormone conditions that cause unwanted hair growth may also have acne, problems with menstrual periods, trouble losing weight, a deeper voice similar to that of men, and diabetes. If these symptoms start suddenly, there may be a tumor that releases male hormones.
The following other causes of unwanted hair growth are rare:
Rarely a woman with hirsutism will have normal levels of male hormones, and the specific cause of the unwanted hair growth cannot be identified.
Hirsutism is generally a long-term problem. There are a number of ways to remove or treat unwanted hair. Some treatment effects last longer than others.
Weight loss in overweight women can reduce hair growth. Bleaching or lightening hair may make it less noticeable.
Temporary hair removal options include:
Laser hair removal (electrolysis) uses electrical current to permanently damage individual hair follicles so they do not grow back. This method is expensive and multiple treatments are needed. Swelling, scarring, and redness of the skin may occur.
Call your doctor if:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, including a pelvic examination if appropriate. The doctor will ask questions such as:
Your doctor may measure different hormone levels if you have moderate or severe hirsutism or you have other symptoms:
If a tumor is suspected, x-ray tests such as a CT scan or ultrasound may be recommended.
Medications or other treatments your doctor may prescribe include:
Martin KA, Chang RJ, Shrmann DA, Ibanez L, Lobo RA, Rosenfield RL, et al. Evaluation and treatment of hirsutism in premenopausal women: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93:1105-1120.
Lobo RA. Hyperandrogenism: Physiology, etiology, differential diagnosis, management. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2007:chap 40.
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