Hirsutism

What Is It?

Hirsutism is excessive hair growth in certain areas of a woman's face and body, such as the mustache and beard area, that creates a "male pattern" of hair. Women normally can have fine, pale, faintly visible hair in these areas, but heavy hair growth in a male pattern with coarse or colored hair is not expected.

Normal patterns of hair growth and hair distribution vary widely, determined mostly by racial background. For example, whites as a group have more facial and non-scalp hair growth than do blacks or Asians, and white women of Mediterranean heritage normally have more hair growth than do women from Nordic countries.

Hirsutism in women means that hair follicles are being over-stimulated by testosterone or other androgen hormones. Androgens are the dominant sex hormones in men. Women normally have low levels of androgens. Hirsutism can be caused by abnormally high levels of androgens or abnormal stimulation of hair follicles even when androgen levels are normal.

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