What is Hirsutism?

In these body conscious times, something as innocuous as a little extra body or facial hair can be seen as a flaw to be condemned by the fashion magazines. However, it is worth remembering that we humans are mammals and all mammals are covered with body hair. But while sprouting nose and ear hair often goes ignored in men, the development of facial or body hair can be quite traumatic for women, especially pubescent girls. Different cultures have differing attitudes to female body hair – the trend towards ‘body baldness’ in California has yet to catch on in Ireland, whereas the unshaved armpit, so common on the Continent, is the exception rather than the rule here. A woman may feel she is more hairy than her friends, when in fact it is simply that her hair grows darker and thicker, which makes it more noticeable. A depilatory cream applied to the legs and bikini line, or a mild bleaching treatment to the upper lip, can often work wonders. However, there is a condition where the female body begins to produce excessive growth of facial or body hair. This is known as hirsutism. Hirsutism usually develops during puberty, though certain illnesses or medical treatments can cause it to occur at any stage in life. The condition is often genetic, or else related to hormonal changes within the body.

What are the Causes of Hirsutism?

There are two types of hirsutism, known as idiopathic hirsutism and secondary hirsutism. When a woman develops either type of hirsutism, her hair follicles enlarge and the hairs become darker and thicker.

Traditional Medical Treatments for Hirsutism?

There are many methods for cosmetically removing excess hair from the body and face, including shaving, depilatory creams, waxing, sugaring, plucking, electrolysis and laser epilation. Any woman wishing to pursue a course of electrolysis or laser epilation ought to consult her GP first. If excessive hair growth is due to a type of hirsutism, this can be treated with a range of medical therapies (oral tablets and topical creams), which help to inhibit or block the hair growth process. There are hormonal and non-hormonal therapies available. While these treatments can manage the condition, they do not offer a cure and hair growth will return when they are stopped. Your doctor can advise the best course of treatment for you.

Complementary/Alternative Treatments for Hirsutism

Even if an individual is at risk for hirsutism, there are steps she can take to prevent it. For example, studies suggest that obese women with PCOS may be less likely to develop hirsutism if they consume a low-calorie diet. Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms: Try to eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy, wheat (gluten), corn, preservatives, and food additives. Your health care provider may want to test for food sensitivities. Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers). Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar. Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein. Use healthy oils in foods, such as olive oil or vegetable oil. Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine. Drink soy milk, for bone health and hormonal balance. Avoid coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco. Drink 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water daily. Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, five days a week.