What is hirsutism?

Updated: May 01, 2020
  • Author: George T Griffing, MD; Chief Editor: Michel E Rivlin, MD  more...
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Answer

Although hirsutism is broadly defined as excessive hairiness, the common clinical use of the term refers to women with excess growth of terminal hair in a male pattern. In this sense, hirsutism is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting approximately 10% of women in the United States. In these women, the hairiness implies the presence of abnormal androgen action, which may represent a serious or, more likely, a nonserious medical problem. Regardless of the etiology, hirsutism can produce mental trauma and emotional anguish. [1] Even mild cases of hirsutism may be viewed by the patient and others as a presumptive loss of femininity. In more severe cases, hirsutism can be a serious cosmetic problem. The major objectives in the management of hirsutism are to rule out a serious underlying medical condition and to devise a plan of treatment. [2, 3]

Idiopathic hirsutism in an elderly woman is shown in the photo below.

Idiopathic hirsutism in an elderly woman. Idiopathic hirsutism in an elderly woman.

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