Hirsutism | Causes & Risk Factors

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What causes hirsutism?

Hirsutism can be caused by abnormally high levels of male hormones (called androgens). The following are some of the conditions that may increase a woman's normally low levels of male hormones:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, which occurs when an imbalance of hormone levels in a woman's body causes cysts (say: "sists") to form in the ovaries
  • Cushing's syndrome, which occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol for a long period of time
  • Tumors in the ovaries or adrenal gland, formed when abnormal cells grow out of control and clump together

Hirsutism can also be caused by hair follicles that are overly sensitive to male hormones. Doctors don't know why this occurs.

Some medicines can cause hirsutism. These medicines include hormones, anabolic steroids and a medicine used to treat women who have endometriosis (called danazol).

Hirsutism also seems to be hereditary (which means it runs in families).

If you have hirsutism, your family doctor may want to do some tests to find out what is causing it.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 11/95

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