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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Excessive Hair
December 2000

Q. I am a 17- year-old girl. Recently, I realized that there is quite a lot of hair growing at my chin and around my nipples. The hair is rather thick and dark. Is this normal? I also have a thicker moustache than the rest of the other girls. Could I be suffering from hirsutism? Please let me know what can be done.

A. Hirsutism, excessive hair growth, usually comes to medical attention when it is a cosmetic problem, most commonly a female concerned about prominent hair growth on the face. There can be many factors that cause or contribute to this, and a careful medical evaluation is needed to determine the diagnosis and importance.

The first exam would consider ethnic and family background. If hair prominence is similar to other family members, inheritance would be likely. If your hair growth seems markedly different from family members, or if the hair growth seems to have changed in recent months, more investigation is needed.

The size and pigment of the hair follicles can be influenced by the endocrine glands (pituitary, adrenals, and ovaries), and by many different medications. To investigate these possibilities, your doctor would perform a physical exam, order blood tests to evaluate endocrine gland function, and possibly imaging studies such as an ultrasound or CT scan to look at the ovaries. This would help establish a specific diagnosis to determine if treatment is needed. A lengthy list of less common medical conditions can be playing a role also, so let your doctor guide the evaluation. It is important to know the diagnosis before embarking on any treatment to just deal with the cosmetic issues.






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