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When excess hair becomes a hassle

How to manage hirsutism


By Dr. Kaycee Reyes


What’s worse than a bad hair day? When you have more hair days, and not just on top of your head! Hirsutism is a condition where dark and thick male-pattern hair growth appears on women, usually after puberty. Imagine having a mustache, beard, chest hair, thicker underarm hair, hair on the buttocks, and thighs? It is indeed harder to live with hirsutism in a society where women should have a hairless body. So how can one manage hirsutism?

Hirsutism, also called hirsutes, is partly determined by race, as its prevalence is more common among those with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent. It is not hereditary, but it is possible to run among families, especially those who have more hair than usual. Hirsutism starts to appear from early teens into adulthood, with more hair growing as one gets older. Places where hair grows may be noticeable on one part or multiple parts of the body, like the eyebrows, upper lip, lower lip, abdomen, chest, upper and lower back, and inner thighs. Its severity is measured using the Ferriman-Gallwey scale, with eight or lower as normal hair growth, and 15 or higher as moderate to severe hirsutism.

Hirsutism is caused by an increase in androgens (the hormone responsible for developing some of a male’s characteristics, including hair growth) or having sensitivity to it. Sometimes, it may also be caused by a condition such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), especially among menopausal women. Insulin resistance and obesity may also be a probable cause. Hormonal problems or a tumor that triggers androgen production may be to blame, too. But these are few and far between. Other times, there may be no cause at all. This is why the dermatologist may look beyond the skin and ask for other tests, such as blood and hormone examination to rule out possible hormonal disorders.

Hirsutism can be a burden for women such that their quality of life may be affected. If a hormonal problem is determined as the cause of hirsutism, then it can be managed with the treatment of the disorder. If there is no cause, possible treatments to manage hirsutism are as simple as shaving, waxing, and using depilatory creams, although this may be tedious as it must be done often for those with hirsutism. For a more permanent solution, the dermatologist may perform laser hair removal, which targets the hair stem cells and makes them thinner, thus progressive permanent reduction of hair growth. It requires multiple sessions and should always be done by a licensed practitioner. The doctor may also prescribe medication as another way to inhibit hair growth, such as oral contraceptive pills that can control androgen production, spironolactone, and cyproterone, but these may come with side effects and dosage should be monitored from time to time.

For those with hirsutism, there is always hope. While it is a lifelong condition, advancing technology always comes up with new ways to remove unwanted hair. If you suspect you have hirsutism, do not hesitate to go to the doctor and do all the tests required as it may be an effect of an underlying medical condition. Do not let hirsutism, or any condition, hinder you from living your best life possible.

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