Hirsutism is excessive hair growth in certain areas of the body. It’s a problem that mainly affects women.
It’s relatively common, although some women may find it embarrassing or distressing to live with.
It’s often a long-term problem, but there are a number of treatments that can help keep it under control.
Symptoms of hirsutism
The excessive hair in hirsutism is usually thick and dark, rather than fine and fair.It develops in areas where men often have hair, such as the:
You may also have some additional symptoms, such as oily skin, acne, a deep voice, irregular periods or no periods at all.
When to see your GP
It’s a good idea to see your GP if you have hirsutism. They can look for any underlying cause and advise you about the treatments available.
Treatments for hirsutism
Treatment for hirsutism usually involves techniques to remove the excess hair and treatment to help slow its growth or stop it coming back.
The main treatments are:
home hair removal methods – such as shaving, plucking or waxing
specialist hair removal treatments – such as laser hair removal
eflornithine cream – a prescription cream that can help slow down the growth of facial hair
oral contraceptives, including co-cyprindiol tablets – a type of contraceptive pill available on prescription that can help prevent excess hair growth
It may take a few months to notice the effects of treatment, so it’s important to persist with it. In many cases, treatment will need to be continued indefinitely.
Causes of hirsutism
Hirsutism is caused by an excess of male hormones called androgens in your body.
In many cases, it’s not clear why this happens. Some women develop extra hair growth as they get older, particularly after the menopause.
In younger women, the most common cause is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can cause irregular periods and fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the ovaries.
Eflornithine cream is a prescription medicine applied twice daily that can help treat excessive hair growth on the face and under the chin.
It can be prescribed for both premenopausal women and menopausal women, but isn’t suitable for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or under the age of 19.
You should notice an effect within eight weeks. Treatment will be stopped if no benefit is seen after four months.
If eflornithine cream does work, you’ll usually need to continue using it, as hair growth will return within eight weeks of stopping treatment.
Side effects of eflornithine cream can include:
mild acne,skin redness,a burning or stinging sensation,dry itchy skin.