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Medical treatment of hirsutism


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Professor Dr Ulrike Blume-Peytavi, Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Clinical Research Center for Hair and Skin Science, Charité– Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, D – 10117 Berlin, Germany, or email:


ABSTRACT:  Hirsutism is usually the result of an underlying adrenal, ovarian, or central endocrine abnormality mainly due to polycystic ovary syndrome but may also be idiopathic or drug induced. The aim of medical treatment of hirsutism is to rectify any causal hormonal balance, slow down or stop excessive hair growth, and improve the aesthetic appearance of hirsutism, thereby positively affecting the patient's quality of life. Today, for the majority of women, a monotherapy with oral contraceptives that have antiandrogenic activity is recommended as a first-line treatment for hirsutism. Combining an oral contraceptive pill with an antiandrogen is recommended if clinical improvement of hirsutism is insufficient after 6–9 months’ monotherapy. In women who present with hirsutism, hyperandrogenism, and insulin resistance, insulin sensitizers are effective for the hirsutism as well as the hyperinsulinemia, hyperandrogenism, and infertility but there is no convincing evidence that they are effective for hirsutism alone. Topical eflornithine is a medical therapy that can be a useful adjuvant for hirsutism when used in conjunction with systemic medications or with laser/photoepilation.