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Medical Treatment of Hirsutism in Women

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Hirsutism is the presence of excess hair growth in women in the typical male hair growth areas, thereby reflecting a deviation from the normal female hair pattern. It affects from 5% to 10% of women, depending on age, menopausal status and ethnic background. The presence of hirsutism is very distressing for women, and subsequently may have a negative impact on their psychosocial life. In the treatment of hirsutism several options are now available, including pharmacologic regimens and cosmetic measures. Both the hormonal profile of the patient and her expectations and preferences should guide the therapeutic approach. The aims of the medical therapy are suppression of excessive androgen production, inhibition of peripheral action of androgens, and treatment of patients at risk for metabolic disorders or reproductive cancers. For other diseases related to endocrine abnormalities, such as thyroid disorders or Cushing's syndrome, specific treatment is mandatory. After an ineffective local approach by direct hair removal, a pharmacological treatment should be suggested, using estrogen and progestin combinations, antiandrogens (i.e. cyproterone acetate, spironolactone) or both as a first line. Finasteride, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, and glucocorticoids should be used in selected cases. Adequate contraception is also recommended if antiandrogens are used. Unfortunately, since systemic therapy reduces hair growth in less than 50% of cases, hirsute women frequently require cosmetic measures. The use of a logical combination of different options has been shown to achieve a satisfactory result in most cases. This review provides information and suggestions about the current options of treating hirsutism.
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Keywords: Hirsutism; antiandrogens; cyproterone acetate; hyperandrogenism; hypertricosis; oral contraceptives; spironolactone

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, University of Padua, School of Medicine, via Giustiniani 2, 35128 Padova, Italy.

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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