Nothing can be as emotionally distressing as unwanted, excessive hair growth on a woman's face and body. This is not the fine, light-colored, unnoticeable hair that women generally have on their body, but a lifelong condition resulting from an endocrine disorder called PCOS.PCOS with facial hair often leads to embarrassment, rejection by peers, dependence on cosmetic treatments with subsequent side-effects, and psychological issues.Among all symptoms, PCOS facial hair is perceived as one of the most significant ones affecting the quality of life adversely. Women tend to associate PCOS facial hair with loss of femininity, and often end up consulting cosmeticians and dermatologists while this condition needs the consultation of an endocrinologist.Known as Hirsutism, excess male-pattern hair in women generally occurs among 5 to 10 % of the population. Hirsutism in PCOS is a result of high levels of male hormones in women.
What is normal hair growth in a woman?Women of most races generally have fine, light-colored thin hair that grows above the lips, chin, chest, abdomen, or at the back areas. They are called vellus hair. These are usually referred to as peach fuzz and normally develop in childhood. This is understood as normal hair growth in women.
What is Hirsutism?When women start to notice hair growth that's visibly coarse and dark in place of the vellus hair, then the condition is abnormal and is called as Hirsutism.This is due to high levels of male hormone called 'androgen.' Women normally produce low levels of androgens, but when the levels are elevated, it can over-stimulate the hair follicles thereby leading to excess, and male-like hair growth.
What causes Hirsutism & PCOS facial hair?Women with PCOS exhibit a range of symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, anovulation, insulin resistance, high cholesterols, and excess hair near the upper lip, chin, chest, back, and the abdomen. This presence of male-like dark terminal hair is called Hirsutism and it occurs due to high levels of androgens or male hormones.Though the presence of facial hair might seem to be a cosmetic issue rather than a medical one, it is important to note that the reason for excess hair is elevated levels of male hormones (hyperandrogenism). The reason for this hyperandrogenism can be due to an underlying medical condition.
Causes of HirsutismHirsutism is caused due to hyperandrogenism and hyperandrogenism can be caused due to endocrine disorders of the adrenal glands or ovarian diseases. This is because androgens are produced in the ovaries and to some extent in the adrenal glands.
Adrenal causesIn case of adrenal causes, certain diseases of the adrenal glands are known to cause Hirsutism. These include:
- Cushing’s disease
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Androgen-producing tumors
- Ovarian tumors