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Although many people have seen the manifestations of it, not too many have heard for the medical condition called Hirsutism.

What exactly is Hirsutism? 

It is defined as the excessive growth of thick dark hair in locations where hair growth in women normally is absent. In other words- it represent a male-pattern growth of terminal body hair seen in women. What’s also characteristic- it usually occurs in androgen-stimulated locations, such as the face, chest, and areolae.
Good thing to know is that it represents a benign condition with only cosmetic complications. However, it is also important to point out that sometimes this condition isn't isolated! It can be a sign of some serious hormonal disorders, especially when it is accompanied by masculinizing signs. What's also characteristic- this condition is difficult to evaluate in women who have blond hair or who already have had cosmetic treatments such as depilation or hair whitening.

Hirsutism and hypertrichosis

Many people, even doctors, use terms hirsutism and hypertrichosis as synonyms but this isn't exactly right. Although the terms hirsutism and hypertrichosis often are used as two same things, the fact is that hypertrichosis actually refers to excess hair in areas that are not predominantly androgen dependent. That’s the main difference although the areas covered with hair can match; in which case- these two would really be the two same things. 

Incidence of the condition

Several researches done in the past have shown that, when talking about women in the US, hirsutism is common and is estimated to occur in 1 in 20 women of reproductive age. When we talk about international proportions, then we should know that inherited familial hirsutism is found mostly in southern European and South Asian. How come? Well, the fact is that in these cases hirsutism is nothing more than a symptom of underlying endocrinopathy. Because hirsutism is a symptom, rather than a disease we simply can’t talk about mortality. Like we have already mentioned- it represents primarily a cosmetic and psychological concern. If we talk about the age onset of the condition/disease, then we should know that it typically begins during puberty. In the case of underlying disease (such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia), this type of hirsutism begins early in childhood. It is also important to point out that the growth of facial hair commonly observed in postmenopausal women may be caused by unopposed androgen.

Normal hair growth

Now, let we hear some interesting facts about the normal body hair growth. Like we already know, human body is almost completely covered with hair. Exceptions are: the lips, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. How many hair follicles we have depends only on our genetic predisposition. Important thing to point out is that there are 2 types of hairs:
  • Terminal hairs – these hairs are usually thicker and found on eyebrows and head hair
  • Vellus hairs – these hairs are fine, light and later transformed into terminal hairs when exposed to androgens 
Although it sounds impossible- the fact is that women have the same number of hairs on their bodies and faces as men do. There is only one difference. Later in life, male hormone, testosterone, makes hairs grow thicker, darker and longer, so that they appear more noticeable. Although even women produce small amounts of testosterone, this low level of this male hormone allows terminal hairs to appear in the pubic, axillary and nipple areas. This is completely normal and happens around puberty.
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