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Hirsutism

Hirsutism is a condition in which a girl has excessive body hair growing in areas where men typically have hair, such as the face, back and chest.

Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Adolescent Medicine and Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

Causes & Risk Factors

Hirsutism may be caused by: 

  • Medical conditions in which the body produces too many male hormones, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or conditions that disrupt normal hormone levels, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Medications
  • Family history – several conditions that cause hirsutism run in families
  • Ethnicity – hirsutism is found more frequently in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and South Asian women

In children, excessive hair growth may be the first sign of a condition known as precocious puberty, in which the body starts puberty too early. 

In some cases, the cause of the excess hair growth can not be found. 

Symptoms & Types

Symptoms include coarse, dark body hair in areas where girls don't normally have hair, such as the face, chest and back.

In some cases, additional symptoms may accompany hirsutism, including:

  • Deepening voice
  • Balding
  • Acne
  • Decreased breast size
  • Enlargement of the clitoris
  • Increased muscle mass

Diagnosis & Tests

It is important to determine the cause of unwanted hair growth and address any underlying health conditions.

Diagnosis starts with a detailed medical history and a thorough physical exam.

Additional testing may include:

  • Blood tests – to measure hormone levels
  • Ultrasound – to take pictures of the ovaries or adrenal glands
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan – to take images of the adrenal glands

Treatment & Care

Treatment is aimed at addressing the underlying cause and getting rid of unwanted hair. Treatment strategies may include:

  • Medications – including birth control pills (oral contraceptives) to balance hormone levels and lower the level of male hormones that cause excess hair growth
  • Topical creams (prescription)
  • Electrolysis – to destroy the hair follicle, for permanent hair removal
  • Laser treatments – to prevent hair from growing
  • Bleaching
  • Over-the-counter creams such as depilatories
  • Shaving 
  • Tweezing 
  • Waxing
Contributor
Jennifer Kurkowski, WHNP