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Hair on Chin and Abdomen Simple Indicator of Too Much Male Hormone
If you are a woman with hair on your chin or abdomen, it's a simple indicator that you may have too much of the male hormone androgen, according to researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University. They recommend that doctors examine a woman's chin and lower abdomen as a minimally invasive way check for excessive hair growth, known as hirsutism.
Women with hirsutism, are often overweight and have diminished fertility related to problems with ovulation. Symptoms can begin in childhood. Hirsutism also is linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a major cause of infertility and a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. PCOS is a subcategory of androgen excess. Excessive androgen is the most common hormone disorder, affecting about about 10 percent of women.
"If you do the math, at least half the women with excess hair growth will be at increased risk for insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease," says study author Ricardo Azziz, a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor) and president of Georgia Health Sciences University. "That is why this is such an important marker."
Dr. Azziz examined 1,116 female patients at the University of Alabama at Birmingham from 1987-2002 and 835 female patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from 2003-09 with symptoms of androgen excess. He says that hirsutism is the single most defining factor of androgen excess disorder and explains that these are terminal hairs that are harder, more pigmented and thicker than the usual soft hairs on a woman's body.
Diagnosis of excessive androgen is a complex process, which can include:
- a history and physical exam
- quantifying hair growth
- measuring male hormone levels
- an oral glucose tolerance test to determine the degree of insulin excess and diabetes risk.
- ruling out syndromes or disorders with similar symptoms to androgen excess disorder.
Treatment for excessive androgen includes birth control pills to prevent androgen synthesis and the blood pressure medicine, spironolactone, a diuretic that also blocks androgen receptors; however, these therapies treat symptoms rather than causes, according to the researchers.
The researchers say they were looking for a way to identify androgen excess in women that was non-intrusive, but very accurate. "We believe this approach is approximately 80 percent accurate and will be less traumatic for women in many situations than the full body assessments currently used," Dr. Azziz says.
For more information about PCOS, please visit FertilityAuthority's PCOS Awareness Page.