Endocrinology Update: Hirsutism

FP Essent. 2016 Dec:451:17-24.


Hirsutism is defined as excessive terminal hair growth, such as coarse sexual or secondary hair, that typically appears in a male growth pattern in androgen-dependent areas of the female body. It can occur in men and women. Common etiologies include polycystic ovary syndrome, idiopathic hyperandrogenemia, idiopathic hirsutism, adrenal hyperplasia due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency, androgen-secreting tumors, iatrogenic hirsutism, acromegaly, Cushing syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, and hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Diagnostic guidelines are predominantly aimed at premenopausal women but an appropriate evaluation for underlying endocrinopathies in postmenopausal women and men may be required. Management is aimed at eliminating drugs that cause hirsutism when possible, evaluation of underlying hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis dysregulation, and detection of androgen-secreting tumors. Pharmacotherapy options include combination estrogens-progestins, antiandrogens, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, biguanides, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, and topical ornithine decarboxylase inhibitors. Surgical excision may be needed for pituitary, adrenal, or ovarian adenomas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Hair Removal / methods
  • Hirsutism / drug therapy
  • Hirsutism / etiology
  • Hirsutism / physiopathology*
  • Hirsutism / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Thyroid Function Tests


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone