Hirsutism - What Is It?
Hirsutism refers to the excessive conversion of vellus hair into terminal hair in women, and occurs in androgen to testosterone dependent sites such as the beard area, neck, chest, abdomen and inner thighs. It should not be confused with Hypertrichosis, which refers to excessive hair growth in non-androgen dependent areas.
Hirsutism is a chronic condition and is associated with hormonal factors normally dependant on increased androgen levels. It develops during or after puberty, when secondary sexual characteristics develop in men leading to increased hair in the beard and moustache areas, the chest, shoulders, back, arms, thighs, pubic skin and on the lower abdomen and buttocks. In women, if these changes are present, it indicates an increased secretion of androgens from the ovaries or the adrenal gland leading to an increase in sensitivity to testosterone of the hairs.
During menopause, the androgen-estrogen ratio changes, with relatively more androgens available. Consequently, and as many as 70% (cannot verify) many postmenopausal women develop hirsutism.
Ultimately, excessive hair growth is determined by you – if it bothers you it's a problem. A European study of female college students recently showed that up to 26% of women had facial hair growth and in 9% it was markedly noticeable.
Studies also show that women who suffer from hirsutism can experience significant levels of emotional distress, including feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, inhibition and an obsession with hair removal.