Hirsutism is excess male-pattern hair growth in women. The coarse, dark hair can occur in areas such as the face, chest, and back.
True hirsutism is often due to an increased level of a male sex hormone called androgen. The main circulating androgen is called testosterone. This hormone is normally found in both men and women. There are certain medical conditions or medications that may cause an elevation in the levels of this hormone in women.
The most common cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome. Other less common include:
Sometimes excess hair growth is due to the person's ethnic background or family tendencies. In some cases, the cause is not known.
Symptoms and signs of some disorders associated with hirsutism may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the distribution and degree of hair growth.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your brain or abdomen. This can be done with:
Treatment is directed at hair removal, reducing hair growth, and the underlying cause of the hirsutism and may include:
Methods of removing hair include:
Medications that may help reduce hair growth include:
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Dermatology Association
Azziz R. The evaluation and management of hirsutism. Obstet Gynecol. 2003;101:99-108.
Hirsutism. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115173/Hirsutism-and-virilization. Updated June 7, 2015. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Hirsutism. N Engl J Med. 2005 Dec 15;353(24):2578-88.
Intense pulsed light therapy. DermNet NZ website. Available at: http://dermnetnz.org/procedures/ipl.html. Updated December 29, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2014.
Lustberg ME. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/hirsutism.html. Accessed November 12, 2015.
11/1/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115173/Hirsutism-and-virilization: Hamzavi I, Tan E, Shapiro J, Lui H. A randomized bilateral vehicle-controlled study of eflornithine cream combined with laser treatment versus laser treatment alone for facial hirsutism in women. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57:54-59.
9/2/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115173/Hirsutism-and-virilization: Haak CS, Nymann P, Pedersen AT, et al. Hair removal in hirsute women with normal testosterone levels: a randomized controlled trial of long-pulsed diode laser versus intense pulsed light. Br J Dermatol. 2010 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print]
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.