Unwanted Hair: The Problem Plaguing Patients & Doctors Alike

There’s nothing more unwanted than excess hair in places that will surprise you. Unfortunately for many people, it’s a daily struggle. And for clinicians like myself, it presents a whole new challenge: effective diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you need to know about it.

The Condition

Cutaneous hyperandrogenism (CHA) refers to hair growth in women in places you wouldn’t usually expect, such as your chest, face or chin. It also encompasses severe acne and hereditary type hair loss - so, not the best batch of conditions thrown together.

The Problem

It is extremely difficult for doctors to pick up on CHA due to the limited testing available to them. This condition has a strong connection to hormonal activity, and a recent article picked up on why this is hard for us to diagnose. In addition to a physical diagnosis, they require information about everything hormonal from menstrual histories to the impact of contraceptives and even lifestyle changes, such as laser and cosmetic treatments.

The article highlighted what I know to be all too true: this is a prime example of how medicine is not as sensitive as it should be. The tests we are able to carry out are not very helpful, and not specific enough to each individual. Hormones are incredibly different from patient to patient, and these levels demand a better way to measure them.

The Solution

It is our hope that more sensitive testing to help identify hormones, hormone levels and tissue receptor sensitivity to these hormones that are a problem for this population. If we are able to accomplish this, we will be able to control their symptoms better and ensure that they don’t live with the day-to-day stress of managing it.

Evidence-Based Approach to Cutaneous Hyperandrogenism in Women
J Am Acad Dermatol 2015 Jun 29;[EPub Ahead of Print], TH Schmidt, K Shinkai

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