Female Hirsutism Causes - Classification Of Causes

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Hirsutism is excessive hair growth in certain areas of a woman's face and body, such as the mustache and beard area, that creates a "male pattern" of hair. Women normally can have fine, pale, faintly visible hair in these areas, but heavy hair growth in a male pattern with coarse or colored hair is not expected.

Normal patterns of hair growth and hair distribution vary widely, determined mostly by racial background. For example, whites as a group have more facial and nonscalp hair growth than do blacks or Asians, and white women of Mediterranean heritage normally have more hair growth than do women from Nordic countries.

Causes of hirsutism

Before we lunge into the probable causes of hirsutism it is better to remember that it is a sign of hyperandrogenism.

The causes of increased androgen level in hirsutism include:

Familial and idiopathic hirsutism

These are common causes of hirsutism resulting from peripheral androgen goings-on. It begins in puberty and slowly steps forward. The patients have normal menses, normal testosterone level, 17alpha hydroxyprogesterone and DHEAS. The diagnosis stands on exclusion.

Idiopathic cause-
Idiopathic cause triggers hirsutism in 6% to 17% of hirsute women. Hirsutism occurs in the body where the circulating levels of androgens and ovulation are normal. The pathophysiological indicators are exaggerated peripheral 5 alpha reductase activity, altered androgen metabolism or different functioning androgen receptors.
Excess secretion by the ovaries (For example tumors, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

The most common example is polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects 6% women of the reproductive age bracket. Over 70% patients with PCOS have signs of hyperandrogenism. This is manifested by hyperandrogenemia and chronic anovulation.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is typified by formation of follicular cysts, which are detected by ultrasound. PCOS is a combination of polycystic ovaries and other typical symptoms like hirsutism, amenorrhea or dysfunctional uterine bleeding, infertility, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles and acne.

This is better diagnosed clinically rather than laboratory findings. The diagnosis of PCOS is based on exclusion, which means this disorder is attributed to patients whose body shows proof of ovulatory dysfunction supported by either clinical or biochemical evidence of hyperandrogenism.

Some rare causes of hirsutism

Medications: Hirsutism may be caused by the medications, which are the sources of hyperprolactinamia.
Greater production of growth hormones

The insight into the roots of hirsutism will accelerate the bold step forward, towards the cure of the disease.

Miscellaneous causes of hirsutism:

This category consists of diverse causes which cannot be grouped under other categories.

Causes of hirsutism under this category include:

* Syndromes of excessive insulin resistance
* Functional adrenal hyperandrogenism
* Hypereactio luteinalis of pregnancy - transient increase in androgen levels during pregnancy
* Thecoma of pregnancy - Transient androgen secreting tumor during pregnancy
* True hermaphroditism - condition where both male and female internal sex organs are present


Hirsutism is self-evidently a most embarrassing condition for a woman to find herself in. But rather than experiment with the various methods of hair removal on offer, all of which have their special merits and drawbacks, it is safer to consult a qualified doctor. S/he would tell you precisely what is responsible for hirsutism in your case, and suggest a suitable hair removal route along with medication.

Anti-androgens are normally used to stop production of the male hormones in women that cause hirsutism. The treatment usually takes from three to six months to work. However, while medication can prevent new hair from growing it can't do much about existing hair.

A prescription cream that slows down the growth of facial hair takes four to eight weeks to have some effect. Popping 50-200 mg of spironolactone daily also retards hair growth. But it has side effects, including tenderness in the breasts and irregular menstrual bleeding. Cyproterone is another drug that is used to treat hirsutism. Administered along with oral contraceptive pills, the drug's side effects include weight gain, depression and loss of libido.

Cosmetic therapy

For temporary hair removal, many women with mild hirsutism pluck the unwanted hairs. Waxing, another alternative, is essentially the same as plucking.

Depilating agents are chemicals that dissolve the hair shafts on both facial and body hair and may also be used to remove unwanted hair. These chemicals can cause irritation and facial skin is particularly sensitive.

Shaving is probably the simplest and safest temporary hair removal procedure. Although frequently required, it is virtually painless and seldom has side effects. Contrary to popular belief, shaving does not make hair grow faster. An electric razor produces less skin irritation than a blade.

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