(Excess Male-Pattern Hair Growth)
Hirsutism is excess male-pattern hair growth in women. The coarse, dark hair can occur in areas such as the face, chest, and back.
Hirsutism is often due to an increased level of a male sex hormone called androgen. Some common causes are:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (most common cause)
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Ovarian tumors
- Adrenal tumors
Sometimes the cause is not known.
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This problem is more common in women of reproductive age.
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
- Decreased breast size
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased size of clitoris
- Abnormal or absent menstrual periods
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.
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:
- Chemical treatment (depilatories)
- Laser treatment
- Intense pulsed light (IPL)
Medicine may be given to lower the level of male hormones. Choices are:
- Oral contraceptives
- Eflornithine to reduce hair growth
Eflornithine may also be given. It blocks a substance needed for hair growth.
There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Dermatology Association
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.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 03/15/2021