Hirsutism: An Embarrassing Condition

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The extent of normal hair growth differs between people, families, and races. It is somewhat extensive in the Mediterranean and some Asian subcontinent populations. Too much facial or body hair growth in a woman is known as hirsutism. There is no absolute margin between the normal hair growth and hirsutism. Usually, sex hormones affect the hair growth in the moustache, beard, breast, chest, armpit, the midline of the abdomen, genital area, and the thighs. A type of soft hair (vellus hair), which is normally present all over the body, is not affected by the sex hormones. If a woman has excess hair growth over the regions, which contain the sex-hormone dependent hair, it shows increased male hormone (androgen) production in the ovaries and adrenal glands. This process commonly occurs due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but occasionally other rarer conditions. Other conditions include an abnormal growth of adrenal glands (congenital adrenal hyperplasia), Cushing’s syndrome, and tumours of the ovary and the adrenal gland.

Androgens are normally known as male hormones. However, both males and females produce androgens. Men produce androgens in larger amounts compared to women. There are few male hormones, of which testosterone is the well-known one. Hirsutism can occur due to increased levels of androgens or raised sensitivity of the hair follicles to normal male hormone levels.

A few women with hirsutism produce excessive androgens. Sometimes, this is because of a medical

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