Hirsutism – Excessive hairiness in girls and women

Hirsutism - Excessive hairiness in girls and women

Women with beards have long been considered a whim of nature. They were often displayed as “bearded ladies” at fairs and exposed to the ridicule of others. Even today, in the 21st century, many affected people can hardly lead an everyday life. They hide and are ashamed of their appearance; an everyday sex life is just an impossible dream for many sufferers of hirsutism. Hirsutism – excessive hair growth on specific body parts caused by hormones – is a medical problem that can be treated.

Excessive hairiness in hirsutism

In women with hirsutism, a dark lady’s beard appears on the upper lip, and the hairline slowly pulls further back. The hair on the body is increasing more and more: on the arms, on the chest, on the back. Many women also suffer psychologically from this male appearance.

Many women with hirsutism also use all sorts of remedies, ointments and vitamin supplements to fight acne, a skin problem that most people overcome when they hit puberty.

 

Hair growth begins with puberty.

Hirsutism begins insidiously in most of those affected: the first signs appear in typical cases while the hormones are taking effect and puberty is beginning. The increase in unwanted facial hair, hair growth on the legs and often all over the body increases over time.

Women feel that their attempts at treatments such as depilatory creams or bleaching hair on their faces and arms only increase hair growth. However, this has nothing to do with the intervention of those affected but much more with the effect of the body’s hormones.

Like the body of every woman, the endocrine glands of hirsutism patients also produce both female hormones and the most minor amounts of male hormones ( testosterone ). In 95 per cent of cases, the causes of hirsutism lie in the area of ​​this hormonal control. Most women’s bodies don’t release too much testosterone, as medicine has thought for a long time. Instead, the skin reacts extremely strongly to these average amounts of testosterone in such cases.

Hirsutism: Body hair as a factor in suffering

The consequences of this hypersensitive skin often make life complicated for the women affected. Especially at an age when girls have to learn to deal with the physical consequences of puberty and want to have their first experiences with sexuality, those affected by hirsutism are often marginalized socially.

Acne on the face and a lot of body hair, not only in the pubic area, but also on the legs, on the face, and in bad cases, even hair growth on the chest and back make a relaxed handling of one’s physicality almost impossible. Acne, which often affects the chest, back, and face, is often mistaken for poor hygiene. Affected women and girls often feel socially isolated.

 

PCO syndrome is one of the causes

But hirsutism is not a fate that has to be accepted. There are several treatment approaches to counteract hair growth. The first thing to do is make sure that the patient’s problems stem from an excessive response to normal levels of testosterone. A simple blood test can confirm this.

The second most common cause of hirsutism is the so-called polycystic ovary syndrome (abbreviated: PCO syndrome, PCOS). This malfunction of the ovaries can be detected in a gynaecological examination using ultrasound.

PCO syndrome (PCOS) often goes hand in hand with obesity and metabolic disorders. Hypersensitivity and PCO syndrome (PCOS) together account for around 95 per cent of all cases of hirsutism.

This clinical picture often occurs during menopause when your hormone production decreases. Other causes, such as hirsutism that occurs during pregnancy or growths that produce hormones, are infrequent.

Not just physical effects but mental ones as well

Hirsutism is often associated with an enormous amount of suffering for the women affected because excessive body hair and other signs of masculinization often lead to the women feeling unsightly or being marginalized by others. Since outward masculinization often has severe psychological consequences, it is a serious condition that needs to be treated. The scars of constant environmental rejection should not be underestimated.

Mothers, in particular, who discover hirsutism in their daughters should consult a doctor as early as possible to enable their child to develop normally both physically and socially.

Permanent removal of body hair is essential.

The priority is to remove unwanted body hair as sustainably as possible. Which method the individual concerned chooses also depends on the skin type, existing acne and – unfortunately also – the wallet.

Those affected can find advice and help from trained beauticians and dermatologists. For example, the following methods are possible:

  • Waxing or epilation is a bit painful but lasts longer than shaving.
  • If the hair is soft and thin, you can bleach it.
  • Methods such as laser epilation or destroying the hair root with a small surge of electricity (electroepilation) are extensive. Dermatologists or well-run beauty salons can carry out these treatments.

 

treatment with medication

The contraceptive pill, for example, is suitable for tackling the problem from within. Products that contain both estrogen and progestin can reduce the production of testosterone in the ovaries. In addition, estrogen causes the male hormone to be bound in the body, i.e. rendered ineffective. Progestin accelerates the elimination of testosterone.

Particularly suitable active ingredients for combination with estrogen are:

  • Desogestrel,
  • stolen,
  • norgestimate and
  • Cyproteronacetat.

Three out of four patients respond well to this treatment. Unfortunately, birth control pills also have side effects. Women over the age of 35, in particular, who also smoke, should think twice before taking these preparations.

As an alternative, preparations that reduce the activity of the ovaries are also offered. This type of drug, along with an estrogen supplement, can have similar success rates as birth control pills. However, it is also a hormone and is also comparatively expensive.

Unfortunately, there are women whose problems with unwanted hair cannot be influenced by medication. The only thing left for you is hair removal and much patience with yourself.

Sports and healthy nutrition are essential pillars of therapy.

Women with PCOS are usually instructed by their doctor to reduce their excess weight by changing their diet and exercising. Diet counselling can help you lose weight. A good example is walking, a gentle endurance sport that does not strain the joints and helps to get the metabolism back on track.

In some cases, medication can even be dispensed with, and a regular cycle can be established. It is, therefore, essential to consult a doctor and take measures to relieve the symptoms: after all, three-quarters of all women with hirsutism can be helped.

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