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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Hairy Woman
January 2002

Q. I am a 26-year-old female who has a considerable amount of facial hair. Could an imbalance of hormones be causing this? If so, what should I do? It has gotten to the point where I have to shave everyday!

A. The hair growth you describe suggests a problem of the endocrine glands, which may involve the ovaries, adrenals, or pituitary, especially if the hair growth is a recent change. The hair follicles are stimulated by androgens, the male hormones testosterone and DHEA, which are produced in women in small amounts from the ovaries and adrenal glands.

Your family doctor, gynecologist, or an endocrinologist can decide how to proceed with further evaluation. Blood tests can measure the hormone levels, and a physical exam and imaging studies such as a CT scan may be needed as well. Certain medications such as steroids can cause hair growth as well. Determining the correct diagnosis will be the key to treatment. Here are some internet references and more details on one such condition, known as polycystic ovary syndrome.

http://www.familydoctor.org/handouts/210.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003148.htm

http://www.familydoctor.org/handouts/620.html

http://www.pcosupport.org/

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