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by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Excess Male-Pattern Hair Growth)

Definition

Hirsutism is excess male-pattern hair growth in women. The coarse, dark hair can occur in areas such as the face, chest, and back.

Causes

Hirsutism is often due to an increased level of a male sex hormone called androgen. Some common causes are:

Sometimes the cause is not known.

Ovary and Fallopian Tube
Ovary and Fallopian Tube
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Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women of reproductive age.

Symptoms

The most common problem is excess hair growth on the face, arms, back, armpits, groin, or chest. Severe problems may be:

  • A deep voice
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Acne
  • Decreased breast size
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased size of clitoris
  • Abnormal or absent menstrual periods

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on areas of hair growth. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Blood tests may be done to check hormone levels.

Other tests may be done to look for a cause.

Treatment

Any underlying causes will need to be treated. This may stop hair growth in some women.

The hair does not need to be removed, but some women may choose to do so. Choices are:

Hair Removal

Options are:

  • Shaving
  • Bleaching
  • Chemical treatment (depilatories)
  • Waxing
  • Electrolysis
  • Laser treatment
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL)

Medications

Medicine may be given to lower the level of male hormones. Choices are:

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Spironolactone
  • Finasteride
  • Flutamide
  • Metformin
  • Eflornithine to reduce hair growth

Eflornithine may also be given. It blocks a substance needed for hair growth.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology  http://www.aocd.org 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  https://www.familydoctor.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association  https://www.dermatology.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Hirsutism. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/?page=Hirsutism. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Hirsutism. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/hirsutism. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Hirsutism. UCLA Health website. Available at: http://obgyn.ucla.edu/hirsutism. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Hirsutism and virilization. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hirsutism-and-virilization. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Martin KA, Anderson RR, et al. Evaluation and Treatment of Hirsutism in Premenopausal Women: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Apr 1;103(4):1233-1257.

Revision Information