Hirsutism

Hirsutism (excess hair growth in women) discussed by Portland Maine Endocrinologist and Specialist David R. Hotelling, MD, FACE:

Hirsutism is defined as the growth of coarse, dark hair in women in areas that usually have fine hair or no hair at all – above the lip, on the chin, chest, abdomen and back.

Women with excess hair growth should be seen by their health care provider, especially if the hair growth progresses.  Hirsutism is usually caused by excess male hormones (androgens) in women (although women would normally produce small amounts of androgens – usually from ovaries and adrenal glands).

Dr. Hotelling notes that there are several causes of hirsutism. The most common are idiopathic hirsutism (no identifiable cause) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  Hirsutism is sometimes accompanied by other signs of increased male hormones, such as temporal balding, menstrual irregularities and acne.  PCOS may also be associated with increased risk for diabetes, high cholesterol levels and infertility due to irregular menstrual cycles.

Rare but potentially more serious causes of hirsutism are hormone-secreting tumors of the ovary or adrenal glands.  All of these conditions can be evaluated by appropriate laboratory procedures.

Treatment of hirsutism, of course, depends on its cause.  With PCOS, birth control pills often can regulate cycles and decrease hair growth (decreased hair growth may take up to 6 or more months of treatment before it becomes apparent – due to long life of hair follicles).  Metformin has also been used in PCOS – this helps regulate menstrual cycles and increase ovulation and therefore fertility.  Spironolactone, an anti-androgen, is an oral medication that sometimes (about 60-70%) can help decrease hair growth – again over time.   Unfortunately, if medications are stopped, hair growth can reoccur.

Cosmetic methods are also helpful such as shaving, waxing, bleaching, electrolysis and laser hair removal.

For more information, please check the following websites:
• National Library of Medicine-www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003148.htm
• The Hormone Foundation (www.hormone.org/Resources/patientguides.cfm).

  • Thyroid and parathyroid ultrasound are available in our office, for your convenience.

• Office location: 477 Congress Street (the Time & Temperature Building), 5th floor, Portland, Maine 04101

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• Telephone: 207-773-6463

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Thyroid and parathyroid ultrasound are available in our office, for your convenience.
David R. Hotelling, MD, FACE, is on the medical staff at Maine Medical Center and is a consulting staff member at Mercy Hospital. Dr. Hotelling is board-certified and completed a fellowship in endocrinology at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, a Harvard affiliate.