Excessive Hair Growth
Excessive facial or bodily hair in women may be a sign of an underlying medical disorder. There are two general conditions to be distinguished. Hypertrichosis is defined as generalized excessive bodily or facial hair, which is usually fine, not coarse, and is evenly distributed. Hirsutism, a more serious disorder, is defined as excessive hair, usually coarse, in a male-pattern distribution, such as a mustache, beard, or excessive chest or abdominal hair. It is often associated with other male hormonal characteristics such as acne, increased oiliness of the skin, increased libido, thinning of scalp hair or even deepening of the voice. Menstrual cycles are often irregular as well.
Hypertrichosis is typically genetic in origin, and is more common in certain ethnic groups. Occasionally it can be caused by a medical condition, or by certain medications. Concern exists when the increase in bodily hair develops over a short time such as a few months, especially in an adult who is long-past puberty.
Hirsutism in a female can be serious. A medical investigation looking at possible causes of excess production of male hormone is necessary. In a woman, excess male hormone can be due to disorders of the ovaries, the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland. It can be caused by medications, by pregnancy, by hormone imbalances, or possibly by a tumor. A full work-up should be performed by a specialist, such as a gynecologist, a reproductive endocrinologist or a medical endocrinologist. Testing should include blood work, pelvic ultrasound, and possibly brain and/or abdominal scans (CT or MRI).
Certain medications can increase the growth of body hair. Rogaine or minoxidil is specifically marketed to promote hair growth. Menopausal women may be taking a form of male hormone such as Estratest or Methyltestosterone, and should be aware that excess hair growth is possible. Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressive medication, can also cause generalized increases in body hair, as can Prednisone, Reglan, and Tagamet. The non-prescription hormone DHA, being touted as the new "fountain of youth," is a weak male hormone, and can potentially cause increased hair growth.
Pregnancy can cause increased hair growth due to the high hormone state, and rarely due to a tumor associated with pregnancy (luteoma of pregnancy). Congenital disorders may be present which do not manifest until adulthood, such as adult-onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia (overactive adrenal glands).
Treatment of hirsutism is directed at finding and eliminating the underlying cause. Some medications can decrease hair growth. Spironolactone, a mild diuretic is well known to do this. Birth-control pills are very effective at suppressing excess hair growth caused by ovarian problems. Unfortunately, even with successful treatment, the hair follicles may forever continue to be active in women who have suffered from hirsutism.
Therefore, hair removal procedures are extremely important to most women who suffer from excessive hair growth. Many methods exist for the temporary removal of unwanted hair, such as shaving, plucking, tweezing or waxing. Long-term removal can be achieved with electrolysis, laser and pulsed light technologies. Electrolysis is effective but is also very painful, takes years for good results, and rarely can be tolerated on larger areas.
Laser and IPL
Laser Hair Removal has become very popular and affordable. Dark hair absorbs the beam of the specially calibrated laser light and becomes overheated leading to damage of the roots and prevention of re-growth. Treatments have minimal discomfort, are quick, and large bodily areas such as the back or the legs can be treated in one session. Results are extremely satisfying. With a few sessions over a 6-12 month period, many individuals report minimal hair regrowth even one to two years later. One laser very well known for this is the Light-Sheer Diode Laser System, available in our office.
Another technology for long-term hair removal is to use Intense Pulsed Light (called IPL). IPL is a non-laser system, using high-intensity pulsed light. Damaging ultraviolet is filtered out, and the pulses of light are customized for every individual. Treatments have minimal discomfort, are quick, and large bodily areas such as the back or the legs can be treated in one session. Results are extremely satisfying. With a few sessions over a 6-12 month period, many individuals report minimal hair regrowth even one to two years later. This is also available in our office using the Lumenis One IPL device.
In conclusion, if excessive hair growth is a medical problem, it should be investigated. If hair removal treatments are being considered, we have the newest and best technology currently available. For a free consultation at Dr. Jick's office in Pasadena, call Marina's Oasis at 626-578-8422 or go to the Marina's Oasis website (click here).