CRDAMC Homepage | CRDAMC Library Phone #: (254) 288-8366 | CRDAMC Library Fax #: (254) 288-8368

Search Health Library


(Excess Male-Pattern Hair Growth)

Pronounced: Her-soot-ism


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    TOP

True hirsutism is often due to an increased level of a male sex hormone called androgen. The main circulating androgen is called testosterone. This hormone is normally found in both men and women. There are certain medical conditions or medications that may cause an elevation in the levels of this hormone in women.

The most common cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome. Sometimes the cause is unknown, Other less common include:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Some forms of Cushing syndrome
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Ovarian tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Certain medications, including:
    • Minoxidil
    • Cyclosporine
    • Phenytoin
    • Anabolic steroids
    • Diazoxide
    • Progestin-containing medications (such as oral contraceptives)

Sometimes excess hair growth is due to the person's ethnic background or family tendencies.

Risk Factors    TOP

There are no known risk factors for hirsutism.

Symptoms    TOP

Presents as excess hair growth on the face, arms, back, armpits, groin, or chest. Symptoms and signs of some disorders associated with hirsutism may include:

  • Abnormal or absent menstrual periods
  • Acne
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Deepened voice
  • Increased size of clitoris
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Enlarged ovaries
  • Enlarged adrenal glands
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels and glucose intolerance

Adrenal Glands

Kidney and adrenal
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the distribution and degree of hair growth.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

Images may be taken of your brain or abdomen if tumors are suspected. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

Treatment is directed at hair removal, reducing hair growth, and the underlying cause of the hirsutism.

Hair Removal

Methods of removing hair include:

  • Shaving
  • Bleaching
  • Chemical treatment (depilatories)
  • Waxing
  • Electrolysis
  • Laser treatment
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL)—uses high-intensity pulses of light to remove hair; unlike laser treatment, IPL uses a range of wavelengths


Medications that may help reduce hair growth include:

  • Spironolactone
  • Finasteride
  • Flutamide
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Metformin
  • Eflornithine

Treatment of Other Conditions    TOP

If you are diagnosed with a condition that may be causing hirsutism, proper treatment may resolve the hirsutism. Weight loss may also play a role in reducing underlying hormonal imbalances.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent hirsutism.


American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Dermatology Association


Hirsutism. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 20, 2017.
Hirsutism. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated March 2014. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Hirsutism. UCLA Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 20, 2017.
Hirsutism and virilization. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 7, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2017.
11/1/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Hamzavi I, Tan E, Shapiro J, Lui H. A randomized bilateral vehicle-controlled study of eflornithine cream combined with laser treatment versus laser treatment alone for facial hirsutism in women. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57(1):54-59.
9/2/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Haak CS, Nymann P, Pedersen AT, et al. Hair removal in hirsute women with normal testosterone levels: a randomized controlled trial of long-pulsed diode laser versus intense pulsed light. Br J Dermatol. 2010;163(5):1007-1013.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Health Library: Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
36000 Darnall Loop Fort Hood, Texas 76544-4752 | Phone: (254) 288-8000