Hirsutism And PCOS

As if women suffering with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) don't have enough to contend with, hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the body), which affects 5-10 percent of all women, occurs more frequently in women with PCOS. This is attributed to the fact that women with PCOS have much higher levels of male hormones in their bodies than do women without the syndrome.

Is Beauty Only Skin Deep?

The West includes the absence of hair in its definition of feminine beauty, even though many other cultures disagree with this concept. Nevertheless, too much hair in all the wrong places can be the cause of painful and sometimes devastating experiences. Since physical appearance is a key factor in how people relate with one another, even if a woman is strong enough to rise above the emotional pain, the stress associated with the amount of time and money spent removing unwanted hair can create even more problems.

What Causes Hirsutism?

Excessive levels of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA, seem to be at the root of the problem for women. The primary androgen is testosterone and while it is normal for women to have a measure of this hormone, too much of it results in hirsutism. A man with too much testosterone ends up with prostate problems.

Dealing With Unwanted Hair

There are several ways to deal with unwanted hair on the body. Temporary hair removal can be achieved with depilation or epilation. Depilation removes the hair above the skin's surface, using methods like shaving and creams. Either of these methods can last for several hours or days. Epilation is the removal of the entire hair from the follicle. For small areas, tweezing works. Waxing or sugaring uses a sticky paste that dries and is peeled off the skin, taking the hairs with it. Fine leg hairs can be removed using a mitt with a rough surface. Hair removal can be painful, in addition to its consequences such as rashes, bumps, and possible folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles).

Electrolysis, A Proven Method Of Hair Removal

Another method of hair removal is electrolysis, which is more permanent because it destroys the hair follicle. The success of this type of treatment lies in the hands of the practitioner, and regardless what claims you have heard, neither of these methods are 100 percent painless or permanent. Electrolysis does have a proven track record for hair removal on women with hirsutism. When the practitioner is skilled and experienced, it can be safe and effective.

Laser treatments, a newer method similar to electrolysis, uses a special light wave that is absorbed by dark hairs. The hair follicles are damaged by the light wave. Dark skinned women should not use laser and fair skinned women with red, blond, or white hair will not have good results. Results are best on light skinned women with dark hair.

Drugs Work To Some Extent

Drugs that slow hirsutism are androgen receptor blockers, like Cyproterone, flutamide, and spironolactone. Androgen-suppressing agents such as GnRH agonists, estroprogestins (birth control pills), corticosteroids, and insulin-sensitizing agents like metformin/Glucophage are also used. Finasteride and eflornithine hydrochloride are examples of 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors which are also used to reduce androgen levels and the resulting unwanted hair growth.

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