The growth of superfluous hair is known as hirsutism, A condition that commonly affects women in which excessive amounts of terminal hair is observed in areas of the body where men usually have hair, such as the face (lips and chin), back, abdomen and chest. The University of Maryland estimates that about 8% percent of women in the United States suffer from superfluous hair growth. Approximately half of this group experiences hirsutism due to the high level of androgens (male sex hormones). However, sometimes there is no underlying cause that causes excessive hair growth.
The growth of superfluous hair can be a symptom of health problems that cause androgen levels to rise, says a website. Some of these may include polycystic ovarian syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing's syndrome, or infrequently, a tumor in the ovaries or in the adrenal glands. In addition, the National Institutes of Health note that hirsutism can be caused by taking certain medications, such as danazol (used to treat endometriosis), anabolic steroids, and glucocorticoids.
Other reasons for superfluous hair growth
The growth of superfluous hair that does not have an underlying cause is called idiopathic hirsutism. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that the factors that come into play are menopause or a woman's genetics, in which excessive hair growth is inherited, ethnicity or race can also be a determining factor. Women in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are more likely to experience hirsutism.
If superfluous hair growth is caused by high levels of androgens, additional symptoms may be noted. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that these may include acne, irregular periods, lack of female body shape and other masculine characteristics, such as a deep voice, small breasts, broad shoulders and baldness.
If hirsutism has an underlying cause, treatment often resolves superfluous hair growth. A website points out that birth control pills or anti-androgens can be prescribed to help lower androgen levels. If a tumor is observed, it can be eliminated. However, the NIH notes that hirsutism often takes a long time to control itself.
The growth of superfluous hair in itself does not threaten life, although it can be embarrassing. Non-medical therapies to eliminate the growth of superfluous hair may be appropriate to treat idiopathic hirsutism, according to a website.Two cosmetic treatments to remove hair include electrolysis, which permanently removes the hair follicle; and laser hair removal, which reduces hair density by putting follicles in the resting phase of growth. If facial hair is a problem, the doctor may prescribe a topical medication called eflornithine, which is known by the trade name Vaniqa, which is applied to the area of the affected face to slow down the rate of hair growth.