The Problem Of Excessive Facial Hair In Women

April 22, 2009

Unwanted facial hair is not just an embarrassing problem for many women, it can also be an indicator of an underlying endocrine disorder, according to doctors in the United Kingdom.

Between 5 and 15 per cent of women suffer from excessive hair growth, known as hirsutism, which involves the growth of coarse hair in females in a male-like pattern. The authors explain that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder, is the most common cause in many cases, and 70 to 80 per cent of women with hirsutism suffer from the disorder. In addition to PCOS, which is considered as a major cause of fertility problems, rarer causes of excessive hairiness include androgen-secreting tumors and thyroid dysfunction, as well as irregular periods. In some individual cases, the use of certain medication can also be associated with the excessive growth of unwanted hair.

Studies also showed that majority of women suffering from this disturbing condition are not willing to consult a doctor. In particular, it is upsetting for younger women when going through the emotional and psychosocial upheaval of adulthood.

Depending on the cause, there are a number of ways to manage this condition, the experts say. The authors recommend lifestyle changes, as well as cosmetic, physical and medical treatments. A co-author of the report, Dr. Rebecca Swingler, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynecology at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol, says that mild cases can be treated cosmetically, but in moderate to severe cases, weight loss and hormone therapy, such as the oral contraceptive pill, have both been shown to work effectively in reduction of excess hair growth. Hormone treatments can be very successful, Dr. Swingler said, but can take 9 to 12 months to have their maximum effect. The experts added that weight loss, especially in obese women, can also help in decreasing high levels of the male hormone testosterone which could also be one among other possible causes of excessive hair growth. And cosmetic treatments such as bleaching also turn out to be effective.

Excess hair is a distressing problem that affects millions of women worldwide. The condition causes hair to grow on women's upper lip, chin, chest and belly. The effect that excess hair can have on a woman's self-esteem and how she views herself as a woman - and therefore her quality of life - can be extremely stressful and embarrassing, the experts wrote. That is why doctors now are urging ladies to stop suffering in silence with the problem and consult their physician as soon as possible in order to screen for any medical problems and to learn about management strategies, or ask to be referred to an endocrinologist or dermatologist. "Women need to look at themselves in the context of their family and ethnicity and what is 'normal' for them. If they notice a change in the pattern of hair growth or they notice they having to wax more often then they should seek help," the experts wrote.

The authors also send their warning to women to use effective contraception while being on certain drug treatments. Some anti-androgen drugs, such as finasteride, for example, have been linked to serious birth defects.

New findings appear in a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Tags: Health

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