Excessive Hair Growth in Women may Indicate PCOS

by Colleen Fleiss on Mar 9 2018 12:53 AM

Excessive Hair Growth in Women may Indicate PCOS
Women with excessive hair growth should undergo testing for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) a common condition that contributes to infertility and metabolic health problems, say experts.
Hirsutism -- a condition where women experience unwanted hair growth in areas where men typically grow hair -- affects five per cent to 10 per cent of women.

The excess hair growth can be caused by PCOS -- a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges, according to the latest update to the Clinical Practice Guideline from the Endocrine Society, a global community of experts in the fields of endocrinology and metabolism.

The guidelines were published online on Wednesday in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).

"Excess facial or body hair is not only distressing to women, it is often a symptom of an underlying medical problem," said Kathryn Martin of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US and chair of the task force that authored the guideline.

"It is important to see your health care provider to find out what is causing the excess hair growth and treat it," Martin said.

All women with hirsutism should undergo blood tests for testosterone and other male sex hormones called androgens, the experts said.

Women naturally have small amounts of these hormones, but the levels tend to be elevated in women with PCOS and other conditions that cause hirsutism.

Experts previously called for testing for women with moderate to severe hirsutism, but the recommendation was broadened to improve diagnosis rates of PCOS and other underlying conditions.

Hirsutism can cause personal distress, anxiety and depression when it is not treated.

The Society suggests treating mild cases with no sign of an underlying condition with medication or direct hair removal.

Although weight loss itself is not a recommended treatment for hirsutism, some studies have found it is associated with a slight improvement in unwanted hair growth.

As a result, the Society recommends that women with both obesity and hirsutism consider making lifestyle changes to improve their overall health.

A healthy diet and exercise also can be beneficial for women who have PCOS, the experts said.