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Too Much Hair – Hirsutism and Diabetes

Excessive hair in women may be caused by treatable hormone imbalances.

Most women have fine hair on their arms and legs, with thicker, longer hair in their armpits and genitals. Men’s body hair tends to be thicker and longer thanks to their androgen hormones, mainly produced by their testicles. Both sexes also produce small amounts of androgens in their adrenal glands and more than one in ten women has androgen-triggered hirsutism, with excessive, male-pattern hair; some medical conditions raise androgen levels, too.

The Causes

In some women, families or ethnic groups, women’s skin is more sensitive to normal androgen levels. Hair becomes gradually more noticeable after puberty, without other signs of hormone disturbance (for example abnormal periods) or abnormal tests. Prominent hair, can also develop after the menopause as our oestrogen/androgen balance changes.

Two-thirds of hirsutism cases are linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS, multiple benign fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries) which can also produce irregular periods, infertility, obesity and raised insulin levels. Ovarian tumours are a rarer cause. Hirsutism can also be caused by adrenal gland disorders, anorexia nervosa, pituitary gland tumours or an underactive thyroid. Androgens may also be boosted by medicines including steroids, some epilepsy drugs, danazol and some progestogens.

The Symptoms

You may notice thicker, longer, darker hair on your face, breasts, chest, tummy midline, buttocks and inner thighs. You may have other symptoms of virilism (excess androgens) including acne, period disturbance, a more muscular figure, deeper voice, reduced breast tissue, larger clitoris, increased sex-drive and ironically, scalp hair thinning. You may have symptoms related to the underlying cause, or develop obesity and raised cholesterol, insulin or blood pressure levels that can lead to cardiovascular disease. These symptoms can be alarming and make you anxious, depressed and/or avoid socialising.

Tests You May Need

Hirsutism can be a sign of serious conditions, so seek medical advice, especially if it develops rapidly, or you have virilism symptoms. Your doctor can examine you, arrange blood tests to check for androgen excess and other hormone disturbances. You may need ultrasound, CT or MRI scans, if PCOS or ovarian/adrenal tumours are suspected, or a brain scan to examine your pituitary gland.

The Treatment

For most women with excessive hair, self-help (see tips) and a healthy lifestyle are all that’s needed, although any underlying cause will need specific treatment. The combined oral contraceptive pill can rebalance hormone levels; some brands may make things worse, but Dianette and Yasmin can be helpful, especially if you also have acne. Some may need stronger, hormone-suppressing, GnRH injections, or anti-androgen drugs such as the ‘water’ pill, spironolactone. Eflornithine cream is licensed for short-term reduction of facial hair, but isn’t prescribed in many areas and hair removal is rarely available at medical and health institutions.

4 Safe Ways to Cope for Diabetics

1. Bleaching – use specially formulated cosmetic creams and follow the instructions carefully.

2. Home shaving or waxing, plucking and depilation gadgets are relatively cheap but need to be repeated and can lead to stubble, ingrowing hairs, damaged hair folicles, folliculitis (infection) or scarring.

3. Electrolysis hair can be permanently removed with repeated electrolysis, thermolysis (diathermy) or laser treatment. These are more expensive and can lead to scarring or extra pigmentation, so choose your therapist carefully.

4. Consider medication or ‘talking treatments’ such as cognitive behavioural therapy if your mental health is affected.

E296 – Too Much Hair – Hirsutism and Diabetes – www.diabetic.today

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