Excess Hair May Be A Sign Of Health Problems In Women

Illustration for article titled Excess Hair May Be A Sign Of Health Problems In Women

Doctors say many women don't tell their doctors about excess hair because they are embarrassed, but it is usually a sign of a hormone disorder.

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Five to 15% of women have excess hair, a condition known as hirsutism, and in 70 to 80 percent of cases polycystic ovary syndrome is to blame. If untreated the condition can cause major fertility problems. Excess hairiness may also by a symptom of certain tumors and thyroid dysfunction. Cosmetic concerns can cause psychological problems too. "The effect that excess hair can have on a woman's self-esteem and how she views herself as a woman - and therefore her quality of life - can be extremely distressing," says Rachel Hawkes, chairwoman of Verity, a polycystic ovary syndrome charity. Mild cases may be treated cosmetically, but in moderate to severe cases hormone therapy may be needed to eliminate the hair. [BBC]

[Image via Cedars-Sinai.]

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DISCUSSION

spicy-armadillo-old
Spicy Armadillo

For me, the embarrassing symptoms didn't show up until I stopped taking hormonal birth control. The hair growth wasn't peach fuzz - it was more like a dark mustache or a beard. I had to bleach it every week. I started losing my hair...not a normal amount of hair loss, like huge clumps every morning. The hair on my legs started growing in thicker. I went to my normal doctor, because I was concerned about thyroid problems, and she was the one who suggested it was PCOS, and sent me in for an ultrasound (which, apparently, very few women show the actual cysts in an ultrasound. I did). I've been seeing an endcrinologist. She tested my testosterone level (99, which is apparently extremely high for a woman), and did other blood work. Now I take two different medications every day - Metformin, to combat insulin resistance (PCOS can lead to diabetes and heart disease later in life) and spironolactone (an androgen inhibitor, to help with the testosterone).

I was lucky, my doctor recognized it right away. I wish I had gone in sooner, although my thin hair seems to be bouncing back, it doesn't always, and the hair loss can be permanent. I may not go back to the level I was at before.