AUGUSTA, Ga. Examining the chin and upper and lower abdomen is a reliable, minimally invasive way to screen for excessive hair growth in women, a key indicator of too much male hormone, researchers report.
"We wanted to find a way to identify this problem in women that was as non-intrusive and accurate as possible," said Dr. Ricardo Azziz, reproductive endocrinologist and President of Georgia Health Sciences University.
"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," said Azziz, corresponding author of the study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
In addition to cosmetic concerns, women with excessive hair growth, or hirsutism, are often overweight with menstrual dysfunction and diminished fertility related to problems with ovulation. Symptoms can begin in childhood. Hirsutism also is highly correlated with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, a major cause of infertility as well as a significant risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. PCOS is a subcategory of androgen excess or excess male hormone, the most common hormone disorder, which affects 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. That is why this is such an important marker," Azziz said.
He calls hirsutism the single most defining feature of androgen excess disorder, such as PCOS. "Excessive hair growth strikes at the femininity of women. We are talking about terminal hairs that are harder, more pigmented and thicker than the usual soft hairs you see." In fact, Azziz and his colleagues have previously published studies indicating hirsutism is second to obesity in negatively impacting a woman's quality of life. "You cover yourself up at the beach. You don't
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Georgia Health Sciences University