What are the causes of unwanted hair growth in women?

Most women have very fine hair also known as peach fuzz above the lips and on the chin, chest, back or abdomen. Hirsutism is a condition when these hair become coarse and dark, which is typical of men.The main difference between normal hair and hirsutism is the texture.  Hirsutism is a harmless condition but some women find it embarrassing and it is also a long term challenge.

Causes

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  • Women have a very low level of male hormones, but when the production of androgens (male hormones) are too much in the ovaries of women , there can be growth if unwanted hair.
  • Sometimes this condition is a result of hereditary where it runs in families.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the common causes of unwanted hair growth. Women suffering from this syndrome have hirsutism accompanied with acne; balding near the forehead and menstrual disorders is a chronic condition. Polycystic ovarian syndrome can also be associated with other problems like diabetes, high cholesterol level and heart diseases.
  • Idiopathic hirsutism — Idiopathic hirsutism refers to hirsutism which has no identifiable reason. It is a mild variation of PCOS and is a chronic condition. The typical symptom of this condition is gradual increased growth of hair in women. Idiopathic hirsutism does not disturb the natural menstrual cycle.
  • Tumour or cancer of the adrenal gland or ovaries can also cause the growth of unwanted hair in women.
  • Use of certain medicines testosterone, anabolic steroids, cyclosporine and, minoxidil, also result in growth of unwanted hair.
  • Any specific cause for unwanted hair growth is still not found.

Ways to treat unwanted hair growth at home

Hirsutism is normally a long-term problem. There are a number of ways to remove or treat unwanted hair.

  • Weight loss in obese women can reduce hair growth.
  • Bleaching or lightening hair may make it less noticeable.  This can be done along with medication
  • Temporary hair can be removed by shaving and plucking, Shaving is a safe and effective method for hair removal but it demands regular sessions.
  • Chemical hair removal, waxing, and bleaching – Hair removal agents or depilatories and wax can be used to remove hair.  Different bleaches can be used to lighten hair. These may cause skin sensitivity in some women. Hence a patch test must be done before using it.

Medical treatment for excessive or unwanted hair

  • Medical treatment may be required when the hair growth is a result of adrenal disorders. Medicines in the form of birth control pills and ant androgen medicines are prescribed by the doctor. This is a long term treatment for growth of unwanted hair. Birth control pills help in lowering the levels of androgens. It is generally first choice by doctors for the treatment of hirsutism. These pills can also establish regular menstrual cycle in women with no menstrual cycle or with irregular menstrual cycle.
  • A medicated cream eflornithine may be prescribed to reduce the growth of facial hair. It does not remove hair the permanently and results are noticeable after 6-8 weeks of constant use of the cream. Once the application is discontinued, the hair returns back as they were before treatment.

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  • Overweight women may be given advice to lose weight, in order to reduce the growth of unwanted hair. Weight loss also helps in decreasing the levels of estrogens. Menstrual irregularities can be controlled to become regular after losing weight.
  • Permanent hair removal is possible by Electrolysis or electric current. . It is permanent but very expensive and has several side effects like swelling, scarring and redness of the skin.
  • Laser hair removal therapy is best when large areas of hair growth are to be treated. It is done on dark colour hair as it does not work on blonde hair. Laser hair removal uses concentrated light rays to damage the hair follicles. Damaged hair follicles fail to grow new hair and old hair eventually fall off.

Conclusion— As stated above the growth of unwanted hair in women is harmless, but for some women it is a challenging issue. Most women suffering from hormonal imbalance respond well to treatment and get cured, but there are chances of the hair growing back if the hormone level is again disturbed. This makes the women self conscious. Counselling from friends and relatives can be of great help in coping up with this condition.