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ACP Broadsheet 131: March 1992. Hirsute women: should they be investigated?
  1. J H Barth
  1. Department of Chemical Pathology and Immunology, Old Medical School, Leeds.

    Abstract

    Should hirsute women be investigated? Most only need careful clinical evaluation. First, they need to be examined to determine whether they are hirsute or hypertrichotic, and for the degree of hair growth to assess the most appropriate form of treatment. Second, they need to be clinically evaluated for signs and symptoms of virilism to determine the extent of investigation needed. If virilism is absent laboratory investigation need only be minimal. As most hirsute women will have mild ovarian hyperandrogenism they will only require the appropriate tests for polycystic ovaries, and only those women who are virilised will need intensive investigation. The approach described is considered minimalist by some; but unless a tumour is diagnosed, anti-androgen treatment will only be offered to those with severe hirsutism who want treatment. Anti-androgens will be prescribed because (i) current medical treatment is insufficiently specific to require accurate localisation of the source of excess androgen and (ii) because anti-androgens are more effective at reducing hair growth than hydrocortisone, even in late onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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