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Excessive hairiness (hirsutism)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Excessive hairiness, which is called hirsutism​, may be caused by disorders in the adrenal or pituitary glands or other conditions.

Endocrinologists at Marshfield Clinic diagnose and treat diseases and conditions of the endocrine system.

What is excessive hairiness?

Excessive hairiness, also known as hirsutism, is characterized by abnormal hair growth on areas of skin that are not normally hairy. Although the condition can affect both men and women, it is usually more bothersome to women.

What causes excessive hairiness?

Excessive hairiness tends to run in families, especially in families of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent.

The excessive hairiness in children and women may be caused by pituitary or adrenal glands disorders. In addition, women may develop excessive hairiness after menopause.

Anabolic steroids or corticosteroids, and certain medicines, also may cause excessive hairiness.

How is excessive hairiness diagnosed?

Although diagnosis of excessive hairiness can be diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. Finding the underlying cause for the condition may include blood tests.

Treatment for excessive hairiness

Specific treatment for excessive hairiness will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Cause of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Removing the hair by shaving, plucking, waxing, depilatories, electrolysis, bleaching, or laser surgery

  • Medicine (to control any underlying endocrine disorder)

Eflornithine is a prescription cream specifically used to slow down the growth of facial hair. It starts to work as soon as 4 to 8 weeks after treatment is begun. The medicine's possible side effects include skin irritation, a stinging sensation, and rash. 

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How Much Do You Know About Menopause?

Test your knowledge of menopause by taking this quiz.

1. At about what age does menopause typically begin?
2. A woman is considered to be in menopause after she has missed how many menstrual cycles?
3. What factors can cause premature menopause?
4. Hot flashes are symptoms of the premenopausal stage. How many premenopausal women experience them?
5. A blood test can help confirm if a woman is beginning menopause. The test measures the level of which of these?
6. What is the most serious adverse effect of menopause?
7. How much bone loss does a woman have in the first 5 years of menopause?
8. Hormone therapy eases some of the negative effects of menopause. Which of these hormones is used?
9. Why is synthetic estrogen more controversial than natural estrogen?
10. If a woman experiences menopause after age 50, how long should she continue using some form of birth control?