From your underarms to your legs, you’ve devoted countless hours to removing unwanted hair as fast as it appears. Your daily routine has helped you stay a step ahead of the fuzz and stubble most of your life, but suddenly, you have hair in new places — why?
We’re glad you asked because many women suffer silently with unwanted hair growth, never realizing that it’s a medical condition that has several treatment options.
Our experienced physicians at The Endocrine Center in Houston, Texas, see this problem often and want to help women understand the reasons behind excess hair growth. More than that, we love changing lives through treatments that reduce and often eliminate embarrassing hair growth. Here’s a rundown of the causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Excessive hair growth that crops up in women in places where only men typically grow hair is more than a nuisance; it’s a medical condition called hirsutism.
While nearly all of your skin has hair, most women have fine hair and “peach fuzz” in the places where men have coarse, dark hair. If you suddenly notice excessive and thicker hair on your face, chest, arms, thighs, back, or abdomen, you may have hirsutism.
Hirsutism is a hormonal problem that causes women to produce too many male hormones called androgens. This imbalance can also trigger other symptoms, such as acne, irregular periods, and weight gain.
Up to 10% of all women experience hirsutism, and most have no reason to be alarmed — at least medically. Hirsutism isn’t dangerous, but it can cause mental distress and low self-esteem, which may lead to depression.
Sometimes, hirsutism is a symptom of other conditions, and those conditions may be cause for concern. Fortunately, The Endocrine Center offers several treatments for hirsutism; the right one depends on the root cause of your new hair growth.
Common culprits behind hirsutism
The main cause of hirsutism is hormonal imbalance, so we start our diagnostic journey by checking into why your hormones are fluctuating. Here are the top contenders.
As women enter menopause, their estrogen levels decrease, while androgen levels remain constant or even increase. This hormonal imbalance causes you to grow coarse, dark hair in places where women don’t typically grow hair, such as on your chin, upper lip, and chest.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal condition that triggers small cysts on your ovaries and is a common cause of hirsutism. However, hair growth isn’t the only sign of PCOS. You may also experience hair loss on your head (male pattern baldness) while you’re growing new hair on other body parts.
Irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, dark skin patches, headaches, and acne also characterize PCOS. Along with these uncomfortable symptoms, PCOS often leads to fertility problems.
Non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH)
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a genetic disorder that affects your adrenal glands and, therefore, your hormones. Classic adrenal hyperplasia shows up at birth and often affects the appearance of a female’s genitals.
Non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia becomes apparent later in life, and typically, the only sign is male-pattern hair growth due to excessive androgen (mainly testosterone) production. Androgens stimulate hair growth, increase hair size, and deepen hair color. While all women produce some androgens, elevated levels can result in hirsutism.
Certain medications, including steroids, can cause hirsutism. Steroids mimic the effects of hormones in your body, so prolonged use or misuse of these medications can disrupt your delicate hormonal balance, leading to unwanted hair growth.
How we treat hirsutism
You can deal with the unwanted hair associated with hirsutism by doing what you’ve always done — wax, shave, pluck, and thread. Or you can enlist our experts’ help and address the underlying problem.
The Endocrine Center’s board-certified physicians offer several treatments for women dealing with hirsutism. We usually start with hormone therapy, such as birth control pills, to regulate your hormone levels and reduce hair growth. These pills contain estrogen and progestin, which help lower your relative androgen levels.
If necessary, we add androgen suppressants to your treatment to reduce your androgen production. Low-dose steroid medication addresses overactive adrenal glands.
If excess insulin is the underlying problem, we may prescribe insulin-lowering medications, like metformin, to rebalance your hormones. And gonadotropin-releasing hormones can slow the production of androgens in your ovaries.
Don’t suffer silently with hirsutism — request an appointment online or call The Endocrine Center at one of our three Houston locations.