Have you ever seen a woman or teenage girl with a five o’ clock shadow or dark mustache? Their problem is not just a cosmetic one either, but it often signifies an underlying medical condition. It also can have deep psychological effects, especially in teens who are still getting used to their maturing bodies. This hairy situation is called hirsutism, and teen sufferers can find treatment.
Hirsutism is a female overgrowth of hair in areas commonly associated with male hair. Since it usually starts with puberty, young girls have to deal with this problem at a sensitive time in their lives. Because the condition actually affects as many as 15 percent of females, these girls don’t suffer alone.
The teens might first start to notice the problem with excessive dark hair on the upper lip, chin, and sideburn areas. If the problem is severe, they might have hair growth on their back, shoulders, chest, or abdominal area as well.
You can imagine the fear and self-consciousness these girls must go through when they discover this excessive hair growth. They may even think that they’re losing their sexual identity.
Thankfully, hirsutism in teens can be treated. First, teens and parents should talk with their doctors about the cause of the condition. While some teens might have this condition alone, the excessive hair growth may come as a result of diabetes or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Then, the doctor can proceed with several solutions. He may advise a combination treatment, which has often proven the most successful. Before starting, the teen should know that any medication given has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for hirsutism specifically.
However, the medications often inhibit the production of male hormones in either the ovaries or the adrenal glands, common causes for the excessive hair growth. These medications can help in dealing with the condition.
As with all medicine, they do come with side effects, such as suppressing ovulation. Some medication may be off limits to teens with other medical conditions as well.
One of the fastest treatments for this teen hirsutism is laser hair removal. Patients who use this option will quickly boost their self-esteem as they see the hair removed more permanently.
How Does Hirsutism Happen?
The excessive hair growth in young teens usually happens due to high levels of male hormones called androgens. Androgens derive from testosterone, and all females have some androgens naturally. Both the ovaries and adrenal glands produce them, but they can cause excessive hair if they over-produce the hormones.
Sometimes, a girl may have normal hormone levels but will experience hirsutism because of the hair follicles’ over-sensitivity to androgens. In either case, the teen should get checked by a doctor since the condition can mean a deeper issue.
For example, the teen could have diabetes. The high amounts of insulin circulating in the blood may stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens. In addition, some medications can have this effect.
If a doctor rules out all underlying conditions and the patient has normal hormone levels, the teen then has idiopathic hirsutism. In this case, she can proceed in treating the cosmetic symptoms.
Teens suffering from excessive hair growth are not alone. Many females deal with this issue, and they can treat it successfully. The over-stimulation of male hormones does not mean that they are losing their sexual identity. They simply have a medical condition that needs treatment. Together, the teen and her doctor can work to find the cause and target the treatment, removing the excess hair altogether.
This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.