Women with excessive body hair don’t just have a cosmetic problem—they may have a health problem. A Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report says that from 5 percent to 15 percent of women have abnormal hair growth on their face and other body parts, and that for many of them, it’s a symptom of a hormonal disorder. In 70 percent to 80 percent of those cases, the report says, the excess hair is due to a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. Left untreated, PCOS causes hormone imbalances and can lead to infertility and eventually to bigger health problems, such as diabetes. Other causes of excess body hair include thyroid disorders and tumors. “Often women have spent many years trying to cope with their hirsutism before they seek professional help,” Dr. Rebecca Swingler tells BBCnews.com. “If they notice a change in the pattern of hair growth or they notice having to wax more often, then they should seek help.” Often, she says, women with hirsutism can be easily treated with hormone therapy, such as taking birth control pills. “It’s always worth getting it investigated,” she says.
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Health scare of the week: Hairy ladies, see your doctors
May 1, 2009
of The Week magazine.