If hormone imbalance is left untreated, it can result in serious medical conditions such as diabetes. If the imbalance is taking place in the pituitary glands, growth disorders are possible and will require treatment of a growth hormone. It is possible that the imbalance could also cause an overproduction of growth hormones, causing medical conditions such as gigantism and acromegaly. There are approximately 6,000 endocrine disorders that result because of hormone imbalance. An imbalance of hormones is experienced at different times during life. As the body changes from childhood to adulthood, puberty is experienced by both males and females. Women will again experience a change in life after childbearing years. Hormonal imbalance is defined as chemical messengers which regulate our body’s systems and no longer function properly. This dysfunction can be an overproduction or underproduction of specific hormones. The primary hormone that causes these changes is estrogen.
Excessive Hair in Women
Excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s body and face is called hirsutism. All women have facial and body hair. This hair is usually a very fine texture. The main difference between normal hair – often called peach fuzz – and hirsutism is the texture. However, excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s face, arms, back, or chest is usually coarse and dark in color. The growth pattern of hirsutism is similar to that of normal hair growth in males.
The presence of excess body hair can be embarrassing, but it is not dangerous. However, the hormonal imbalance that can lead to hirsutism may compromise a woman’s health.
Why Do Women Grow Excessive Or Unwanted Hair?
Women develop excessive body or facial hair due to higher-than- normal levels of male hormones. Male hormones are called androgens, and they include testosterone. All females produce androgens, but the levels normally remain low. Certain medical conditions can cause a woman to produce too many androgens, causing male-pattern hair growth and other unwanted male hocharacteristics such as a deep voice.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of hirsutism. Benign cysts that form on the ovaries can affect hormone production, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and decreased fertility. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome often have moderate-to-severe acne, tend to be overweight, and may be at risk for diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2011).
Other forms of hormonal imbalance that cause excessive hair growth include the following adrenal gland disorders:
- adrenal cancer
- adrenal tumors
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Cushing disease
The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and are responsible for hormone production. People with congenital adrenal hyperplasia are born without an enzyme that is necessary for hormone production. Those with Cushing disease have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol. Cortisol is sometimes called the stress hormone. All of these conditions can affect the way the body produces androgens.
Individuals may also experience excessive body or facial hair growth if they take any of the following medications: Minoxidil, anabolic steroids, testosterone or cyclosporine.
Doctors will take a detailed medical history when diagnosing hirsutism. Individuals should discuss their medication use with their doctor to help determine the cause of the hair growth. The doctor will order blood tests to measure hormone levels. Ultrasounds or MRI scans of the ovaries and adrenal glands may be conducted to check for the presence of tumors or cysts.
Treatment for Excessive Hair
Medical treatment may be required if excessive hair growth is a symptom of adrenal disorders or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Drug therapy in the form of antiandrogen medications and birth control pills can help balance hormone levels. Birth control pills may also cause the cysts on the ovaries to shrink. These drugs are usually taken as a long-term solution for hirsutism. Sufferers will most likely notice improvement after three to six months of drug therapy.
Doctors may prescribe the medicated cream eflornithine to reduce the growth of facial hair. Facial hair growth should slow after one to two months. Side effects of eflornithine include skin rash and irritation.
If an individual is overweight, the doctor will probably suggest that they lose weight to reduce the hair growth. Obesity can change the way your body produces and processes hormones. Achieving a healthy weight may correct androgen levels without the use of medication.
Excessive or unwanted body and facial hair is a long-term challenge. Most women who are diagnosed with hormonal imbalances respond well to treatment through electrolysis or laser hair removal, but the hair can grow back if hormone levels again become out of sync. The condition can be embarrassing and may make those afflicted self-conscious. Counseling and support from friends and family can help these individuals cope with the condition.
While we have little control over our hormones as we pass through various life stages, we do have enough control over them at certain stages to improve the way we feel and look. If you feel that your client may have a hormone imbalance, encourage her to contact a health care provider.
Hair Removal Techniques
Techniques for hair removal are used for nonmedical management of excessive or unwanted hair. These are the same hair removal methods that many women use to keep their legs, bikini line, and underarms free of hair. If your client suffers from hirsutism, offer to help them be more proactive about waxing, shaving, and using depilatories (chemical foams).
Laser hair removal and electrolysis can also be effective at permanently eliminating coarse, unwanted hair. Laser hair removal involves using concentrated light rays to damage hair follicles. Damaged follicles cannot produce hair and the hair that is present falls out. Electrolysis is the removal of hair, using an electric current on individual hair and dates back over 100 years. Both of these methods are excellent treatments for removing unwanted hair. You should educate your client that several sessions may be required to achieve desired results.
Outlook for Excessive or Unwanted Hair
Excessive or unwanted body and facial hair is a long-term challenge. Most women who are diagnosed with hormonal imbalances respond well to treatment, but if your hormone levels again become out of sync, the hair can grow back. The condition can be embarrassing and may make you self-conscious. Here again, counseling and support from friends and family can help you cope with the condition.