Family Health

Hirsutism is a condition where women have excess unwanted hair on their faces and bodies. With this masculine hair presentation, the hair is dark and coarse and usually appears where men typically grow hair, on the chest, face, and back.

It is normal for a woman to have fair share of hair, distributed all over her body. A woman’s arm pit (under arm ), and pubic hair is of moderate quantity depending on hereditary factors. Normally, a woman only has fine hair, above the lips and on the chin, chest, abdomen, or back.  The presence of coarse dark hair in these areas is an indication of the presence of excessive male hormones.  The amount of hair varies among women. But about half of women with hirsutism may have high levels of male sex hormones called androgens.
Most cases of hirsutism are not severe, and are not caused by any underlying condition. However, sometimes there is a more serious underlying condition, such as Cushing syndrome.( a condition which arises from excessive exposure to the hormone cortisol ).  Sometimes no cause can be found.

Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom are hair growing on the abdomen, breasts, and upper lip (male-pattern hair growth in women). If hirsutism is caused by high levels of male hormones, symptoms may also include:
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Acne
• Loss of feminine body shape
• Signs of masculinity, deepening voice, male pattern baldness, enlarged clitoris, enlarged shoulder muscles
If Cushing syndrome is indicated, signs and symptoms can include:
• Obesity, especially around the middle section
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Thinning skin .

Possible causes
About half of women with hirsutism have high levels of male sex hormones, called androgens. Those high levels can be caused by:
• Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which may also cause infertility
• A common cause of hirsutism is  (PCOS). Women with PCOS and other hormone conditions that cause unwanted hair growth may also have acne, problems with menstrual periods, trouble losing weight, and diabetes. If these symptoms start suddenly, you may have a tumor that releases male hormones.
• Tumors on the adrenal glands or ovaries
• Cushing syndrome, from excessive exposure to cortisol.
• Medications that can cause hair growth.
• Anabolic steroids , for body building.
• Drugs used to treat endometriosis
Menopause : Estrogen production is decreased but the continued androgen production leads to an increase in the number of terminal hair.
When there is an underlying condition, it is easy to find the possible cause of Hirsutism , as the high level of androgen ,  is an indicator.

What your doctor would do in diagnosis
• When you see a doctor, you will be examined and your medical history will be taken.
• . You may be asked about your menstrual cycle,
•  what medications you take, and your family history.
•  Your doctor will check you for hair growth and
• also may do a pelvic examination to check for tumors or cysts on the ovaries.
• Blood tests, measuring hormonal levels , may show high androgen levels.
• Imaging tests, including CT scan, MRI, pelvic ultrasound, used to find cysts or tumors on the ovaries or adrenal glands
The cause of Hirsutism would determine the type of treatment.
• For women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example, losing weight through diet and exercise may help. Obese women are placed on low calorie diet.
1. Medications can be substituted if they are causing excessive hair growth.
2. A tumor on the ovaries or adrenal glands can be removed surgically.
3. Weight loss is advised for obese women, so that they do not produce more androgens.
4. Counseling would also go a long way, as this condition could cause very deep emotional situations.
5. The kind of life style you keep matters. Being overweight may contribute to hirsutism. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough exercise to control weight.

Certain medication would have to be taken long term.
• Birth control pills. Some birth control pills can lower the amount of androgens your body makes.
• Drugs that  blocks androgen from being used in the body
• Also , prescription cream for unwanted facial hair. It slows new hair growth but does not get rid of existing hair. Once you stop using the cream, the hair grows back.  The use of surgery to remove cancerous ovaries, and laser to hinder hair growth.

In your food
These nutritional tips may help women stay at a good weight, which may help lower androgens in the body:
• Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers).
• Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar.
• Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein.
• Use healthy oils in foods, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
• Reduce or eliminate trans fat, found in commercially-baked goods, such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and some margarines.
• Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
•  Drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.

Herbs may strengthen and tone the body’s systems.
In pregnancy, you must consult your doctor before taking any medication, to control this condition.