Hirsutism

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hirsutism

[′hər·sə‚tiz·əm]
(medicine)
An abnormal condition characterized by growth of hair in unusual places and in unusual amounts.

Hirsutism

 

masculine type of hairiness in women; one of the manifestations of virilism. The term “hirsutism” was introduced into medical practice in 1910 by the French physician E. Apert.

Hirsutism is most often a symptom of several diseases produced by affection of the adrenal cortex and the sex glands. A symptom resembling hirsutism is also observed with the development of a tumor in the anterior pituitary gland, which is accompanied by increased secretion of the hormone that activates function of the adrenal cortex. Hirsutism is revealed by the appearance of hair on the face (mustache and beard), abdomen, chest, arms, and legs. It may be characterized by the predominance of adiposity (“adipose” hirsutism) with excessive development of blackheads or by sharply expressed masculine traits. In the latter case, the musculature and skeleton of young women resemble those of a man (“muscular” hirsutism), and meat-red spots appear on the body (mainly on the face and legs). Hirsutism in little girls is often accompanied by premature development of the external sex organs and of secondary sexual characteristics of the male, underdeveloped internal sex organs, absence of menstruation, enlargement of the mammary glands (owing to fatty, not glandular, tissue), and roughening of the voice; there is psychological and intellectual retardation, and sexual feeling is absent. Treatment of hirsutism calls for surgery and X-ray therapy.

Hairiness is sometimes observed also in women during the climacteric, when there is a decrease in ovarian function. In the absence of the other clinical symptoms observed in pathologic hirsutism, family (genetic) hirsutism, which develops in young women, often in the period of sexual maturation, presents a special picture. This type is apparently the result of an increased sensitivity of the hair bulbs to the normal male-hormone content in the woman’s body. The treatment for this form of hirsutism consists in local attack on the hair bulbs—electrocoagulation and electrolysis.

L. M. GOL’BER