What is Hirsutism and How Do I Know If I Have It?


If you have ever wondered why some women seem to have more hair on their bodies than others, you may be suffering from a condition known as hirsutism. Hirsutism is a condition where a woman has excessive hair growth on her body- primarily in places where men typically grow hair, such as the face, chest, and back. While hirsutism can affect any woman, it is most commonly seen in those who are of Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Mediterranean descent.

Causes of Hirsutism

A lot of factors can cause hirsutism. One of the most common is an excess of androgens, which are male hormones that women also have in their bodies. Androgens play a role in hair growth, so when there are too many of them present, it can lead to excessive hair growth. Other possible causes of hirsutism include:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)- a condition that causes an imbalance of hormones in the body
  • Medications– certain medications, such as birth control pills and testosterone replacement therapy, can cause hirsutism
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia– a condition that affects the adrenal glands and leads to an excess of androgens
  • Tumors– both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors can cause hirsutism by producing androgens
  • Cushing’s syndrome– a condition that results in the overproduction of cortisol, a hormone that can lead to hirsutism

Symptoms of Hirsutism

Hirsutism can be a difficult condition to diagnose because it is often mistaken for regular hair growth. However, some key symptoms can help to distinguish it from regular hair growth. One of the most common symptoms of hirsutism is that the hair is thicker and darker than normal. The hair may also grow in places where you normally wouldn’t see hair, such as on the cheeks or forehead. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor so they can help to diagnose and treat the condition.

Treatment for Hirsutism

There are several different treatments for hirsutism depending on the underlying cause. If the cause is an excess of androgens, treatment may involve medications that block the production or action of these hormones. PCOS can be treated with birth control pills, while Cushing’s syndrome may require surgery. If the cause of hirsutism is unknown or cannot be treated, there are still options for managing hair growth.

Here are some of the most common procedures:

  1. Laser hair removal– This procedure uses laser energy to destroy the hair follicle, which prevents new hair from growing. Most people will need multiple treatments to achieve the desired results.
  2. Electrolysis– This procedure uses electric currents to destroy the hair follicle. It is usually done in small areas and can be quite time-consuming. If you have a large area that needs to be treated, laser hair removal may be a better option.
  3. Depilatory creams– These creams work by dissolving the hair shaft, which allows the hair to be easily removed. They are typically used in small areas and can cause skin irritation in some people.
  4. Shaving– This is the most common method of hair removal and can be done at home. It is important to use a sharp razor and to shave in the direction of hair growth to avoid irritation. Make sure to moisturize the skin after shaving to prevent dryness.
  5. Waxing– This method involves using hot wax to remove hair from the root. It can be done at home or in a salon. Waxing can be painful and may cause skin irritation in some people.

Hirsutism can be a difficult condition to deal with, but there are many treatments available that can help to manage hair growth. If you think you may have hirsutism, it’s important to see a doctor so they can help to determine the cause and recommend the best course of treatment.

Where to Find Doctors That Treat Hirsutism?

There are many different types of doctors that can treat hirsutism. Dermatologists are skin specialists and can provide treatments for hair removal. Endocrinologists are hormone specialists and can help to identify and treat conditions that cause an imbalance of hormones in the body. Gynecologists are also often involved in the treatment of hirsutism, as many of the conditions that cause it are related to the reproductive system. If you think you may have hirsutism, your primary care doctor can help to refer you to the appropriate specialist.