Excessive Hairiness Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    Hirsutism is the presence of dark, visible hairs in a male pattern. It may be accompanied by infertility or irregular menstruation. Hirsutism is characterized by dark, thick hair on the upper lip, chest, abdomen, and back. These hairs are different than the fine “baby” hairs that most women have on their upper lip, chin, breasts, or stomach.

  • Risk Factors

    Women with a family history of polycystic ovary syndrome or congenital (familial) adrenal hyperplasia are at risk for developing hirsutism. Both of these diseases are thought to have a hereditary, or genetic component. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia means excessive growth (and usually excessive hormone production) by both adrenal glands—a problem that is passed down through generations of a particular family. If your family is prone to any of these conditions or to hirsutism, see your doctor for early diagnosis. If caught before symptoms appear, therapy can correct the underlying problem and prevent hirsutism from developing. If the underlying causes of hirsutism are not treated, longer-term health risks due to ongoing hormone excess may arise. These include diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure (hypertension), hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and endometrial cancer. In addition, many women with hirsutism suffer from depression.

    The extensive use of androgens or steroids can cause excess or unusual hair growth. Although these drugs are prescribed for a number of conditions, in some cases they can drive certain bodily changes, including increased hair growth. This is true whether they are being used illicitly or under the supervision of a doctor.

    Postmenopausal women are more likely to have unwanted hair growth. This is because their ovaries are no longer active. Ovarian hormones such as estrogen counteract and stabilize the activity of androgens produced by other glands in the body.

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