Hirsutism in women
Excessive hair growth in women is usually a psychological concern, but it may indicate underlying morbidity. Nadia Soliman and Peter Wardle consider the options for treatment
- By: Nadia Soliman, Peter G Wardle
Hirsutism in women is the presence of unwanted coarse body hair in a male distribution. It affects 5-15% of women,1 and it can have profound psychological sequelae. It undermines the woman's confidence and self esteem, and its effect on quality of life should not be underestimated. Some women live apparently normal lives but may spend two or three hours a day using cosmetic or camouflage methods. Other women may become reclusive and only venture out after dark. In teenagers, hirsutism can be a cause of bullying, social isolation, and poor educational performance. By the time they seek medical advice, many women will have reached a point of desperation.
Hirsutism is usually caused by increased production of androgen (a collective term for male sex hormones) or increased sensitivity of hair follicles to androgens. The condition is often associated with acne and seborrhoea. Management of female hirsutism requires, first of all, the