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Hirsutism is the term used for excessive hair growth in women. It refers to a male pattern of hair, i.e. in the moustache and beard areas, or occurring more thickly than usual on the limbs. There may be hairs on the chest or an extension of pubic hair on to the abdomen and thighs. What is considered normal for a woman, and what is considered hirsute, depends on cultural factors and race. Hirsutism is very common.
Hirsutism is nearly always genetic in origin. In families where hirsutism is normal, both female and male relatives may have more hair than average.
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Acne: A chronic skin disorder due to inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous glands (secretion glands in the skin).
Alopecia: Loss of hair.
Androgen: Any steroid hormone that increases male characteristics.
Antiandrogenic: Substance capable of preventing full expression of the biological effects of androgenic hormones on responsive tissues, either by producing an antagonistic effect, as in the case of estrogen, or by competing for receptor sites on the cell surface.
DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid produced by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant one found in humans. DHEA may be transformed into testosterone, estrogen or other steroids. It is found in the body as DHEA or in the sulfated form known as DHEA-S. One form is converted into the other as needed.
DHT: Dihydrotestosterone - a highly active form of testosterone, which influences many aspects of manly behavior, from sex drive to aggression. The conversion from testosterone to DHT is driven by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which is produced in the prostate, various adrenal glands, and the scalp.
Estrogen: One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.
Hormones: Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Idiopathic: Arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause.
Serum: The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.
Testosterone: The principal male sex hormone that induces and maintains the changes that take place in males at puberty. In men, the testicles continue to produce testosterone throughout life, though there is some decline with age. A naturally occurring androgenic hormone.