There are women who feel their looks are spoilt because of the presence of excessive body hair. While hair on women's body is common, excessive body hair isn't a normal condition and must be taken seriously. Women are generally unaware that the condition is known as Hirsutism.
What is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism can be defined as growth of excessive facial and body hair in women. With the world obsessed with flawless skin, such changes from feminine hair pattern (soft, fine, vellus hair) to masculine hair pattern (hard, dark, terminal hair) in a woman is generally unwelcoming and, hence, very distressing for the woman.
Why do some women develop Hirsutism?
In order to understand the reasons for such excessive growth in some women, it is important to understand the differences in the physiology of men and women. The male or female appearance of one's body is dependent on a delicate balance between male and female sex hormones. There is a predominance of the hormone estrogen in a woman's body, whereas androgens (testosterone) are the predominant sex hormones among men. However, some amount of androgens is secreted by the ovaries and adrenal glands (located next to kidneys) in women also. But, an excessive production of these hormones results in Hirsutism. Hormonal imbalance is by far the most common cause of Hirsutism.
Causes of Hirsutism
The common causes of hirsutism include:
1. Endocrine causes
2. Tumors - Tumors in ovary or adrenal glands can again cause hirsutism due to excessive production of androgens
4. Idiopathic - The woman may be having hirsutism despite normal hormone levels
- Spironolactone - Spironolactone is a diuretic medicine, which blocks the effects of androgens on the hair follicles, thus controlling hair growth.
- Finasteride - Finasteride works by blocking the conversion of body testosterone into its more potent chemical entity, thereby limiting the effect of testosterone on hair growth.
- Flutamide - Flutamide is a potent anti-androgen, which blocks the actions of androgens and helps in controlling the hair growth.
However, we have to ensure that the woman is not pregnant when taking any of these three medications. These medicines are often combined with oral contraceptives, which also have a synergistic effect in reducing the severity of hirsutism. One should also seek an expert opinion before starting these medications as there can be serious side effects, especially on liver.
3. Steroids - Low dose dexamethasone can be used to control the overactive adrenal glands when used carefully. However, long-term steroid therapy has got its own side effects and this therapy should only be considered under expert care and guidance.
4. Insulin sensitizing medicines - Medicines such as Metformin and Pioglitazone (Basically these are anti-diabetic medications) help in reducing insulin resistance in the body, which, in turn, helps in controlling the effects of excessive circulating androgens.
Cosmetic treatment for hirsutism -
One very important aspect of cosmetic management of hirsutism is self-care. This can include shaving, waxing, use of depilators and bleaching creams. All these measures help to reduce the amount of visible hair in undesired parts of the body. But, this needs to be done very frequently for a sustained visible effect.
Permanent hair removal is also possible using electrolysis or LASER treatment. In electrolysis treatment, electric current is passed into the hair follicle using a needle, which damages the root of the hair permanently. Similarly, LASER treatment uses LASER to destroy the hair follicle. Both these are effective methods to get rid of the undesired hair. However, we do not yet know if there are any long-term complications or side effects of these methods and these methods are not yet approved by the US FDA. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a dermatologist.