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Excessive or unwanted hair in women

Contents of this page:


Ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts
Overproductive ovaries
Overproductive ovaries

Alternative Names    Return to top

Hypertrichosis; Hirsutism; Hair - excessive (women)

Definition    Return to top

The normal amount of body hair varies widely among women. When coarse, dark hairs grow where women typically do not grow dark hair, such as the lip, chin, chest, abdomen, or back, the condition is called hirsutism.

Causes    Return to top

Excessive hair growth in women is usually from too much male hormone (androgen). A common cause is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In most cases, however, the specific cause is never identified. It tends to run in families. In general, hirsutism is a harmless condition. But many women find it bothersome, even embarrassing.

If hirsutism develops suddenly and is accompanied by other typical male features, such as deepening voice, acne, or increased muscle mass, it may be caused by a more serious disorder. These causes, such as hormone-secreting tumors or cancer, are rare.

Rare causes include:

Home Care    Return to top

There are a variety of ways to remove unwanted hair:

Birth control pills and anti-androgen medications can also help reduce hair growth. A doctor must prescribe these medications.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your doctor if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

Your doctor will perform a physical examination, including a pelvic examination if appropriate. The doctor will ask questions such as:

Diagnostic blood tests may be performed to measure levels of :

If a tumor is suspected, x-ray tests such as a CT scan or ultrasound may be recommended.

References    Return to top

Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby, Inc. 2004.

Claman P. SOGC clinical practice guidelines. Hirsutism: evaluation and treatment. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2002; 24(1): 62-73, 77-79.

Büyükaebiz A. Hirsutism in adolescent girls. J Ped Endocrinol Metab. 2007; 20:473-474.

Bona G, Bozzola M, Buzi F, et al. Hirsutism. Minerva Pediatr. 2007; 59(3):289-298.

Update Date: 7/17/2007

Updated by: Nikheel S. Kolatkar, MD, Clinical and Research Fellow, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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