My daughter is a 17 year old healthy teenager. Her problem is
excessive facial and body hair. But at the same time she is losing
her hair on her head at an alarming rate. Her facial hair has gotten
much worse within the last several months. We are doing
electrolysis but it is not helping her. Can you please advise us?
When a woman has excessive facial or body hair it is a condition
called hirsutism. Hirsutism either runs in the family, showing itself in
growth spurts at menopause and puberty, or it is an indicator of a
larger underlying problem. If it is hereditary it is largely a cosmetic
rather than health concern. When it is not hereditary it is most
probably the result of excessive male hormone production (adrenal
virilism), or an increased sensitivity of the hair follicle to normal
male hormone levels. It is important to both a woman's health and
her self-confidence to have this condition diagnosed by a doctor.
Hirsutism, and any hormone imbalance that may underlie this
condition can be treated.
Every woman's body produces both "male" and "female"
hormones, which act in balance. If it is indeed a hormone
imbalance that is the root cause of a woman's hirsutism, a doctor
will determine the source of the overproduction of male hormones
and suggest a course of treatment that targets that source. An
underlying hormonal problem might have larger consequences
than just hair growth and any treatment of the hair growth alone will
only act as a response to the symptom, not the cause itself.
Some of the symptoms that indicate if a woman's hair growth is
tied to a hormonal imbalance are the following: 1) irregular
menstruation 2) obesity 3) deepening of the voice 4) decreased
breast size, and 5) baldness. If a woman experiences a sudden
worsening of her hirsutism, or first experiences hair growth after 25
years of age, it may be an androgen-producing tumor which is the
source of hormonal imbalance. Androgen-producing tumors
usually show symptoms over months rather than years, and are
only found in women on the ovaries or adrenal gland. Typically
women with hirsutism begin to have symptoms in their teens and
early twenties, and their symptoms get worse gradually with age.
Hormonal imbalances can be brought on by the use of oral
contraceptives, the onset of menopause, or problems in the
adrenal or pituitary glands.
Most cases of hirsutism that are related to hormone imbalance can
be treated through hormone therapy, or in the case of a tumor,
through surgery. The condition itself, excessive facial and/or body
hair, can be managed. Electrolysis is a popular means to
managing excess facial hair, but there are also laser procedures
that are said to be less painful. A woman might consider bleaching
her facial hair, which makes it less visible. All of these methods
should be used as means to treating the symptom, but any woman
with progressing hirsutism should consult a doctor for a diagnosis
in order not to compromise her health, or her self-confidence.