To determine whether assessing the extent of terminal hair growth in a subset of the traditional 9 areas included in the modified Ferriman-Gallwey (mFG) score can serve as a simpler predictor of total body hirsutism when compared to the full scoring system, and to determine if this new model can accurately distinguish hirsute from non-hirsute women.
Two tertiary care academic referral centers.
1951 patients presenting for symptoms of androgen excess.
History and physical examination, including mFG score.
Main Outcome Measures
Total body hirsutism.
A regression model using all nine body areas indicated that the combination of upper abdomen, lower abdomen and chin was the best predictor of the total full mFG score. Using this subset of three body areas is accurate in distinguishing true hirsute from non-hirsute women when defining true hirsutism as mFG>7.
Scoring terminal hair growth only on the chin and abdomen can serve as a simple, yet reliable predictor of total body hirsutism when compared to full body scoring using the traditional mFG system.
hirsutism; Ferriman-Gallwey; modified Ferriman-Gallwey; androgen excess; polycystic ovary syndrome; PCOS; hair growth
Hirsutism refers to the presence of terminal hairs at the body sites under androgenic control. Various factors, including genetic makeup and hormonal status, influence the rate and pattern of hair growth at these sites.
To study the pattern of hirsutism in Kashmir.
Materials and Methods:
Thirty five consecutive patients of hirsutism were included in the study. After detailed history taking, physical examination and relevant investigations, scoring of hirsutism was done using the Ferriman Gallwey (FG) scoring system.
The FG score ranged from 10-34. Twenty patients had associated menstrual abnormalities. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) was diagnosed in four patients, hypothyroidism in two and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) in one. The rest of the patients had idiopathic hirsutism.
Idiopathic hirsutism was the most common category, whilst PCOS, hypothyroidism and CAH were also seen.
Ferriman-Gallwey scoring; hirsutism; polycystic ovaries
Hirsutism is the presence of excess body or facial terminal (coarse) hair growth in females in a male-like pattern, affects 5–15% of women, and is an important sign of underlying androgen excess. Different methods are available for the assessment of hair growth in women.
We conducted a literature search and analyzed the published studies that reported methods for the assessment of hair growth. We review the basic physiology of hair growth, the development of methods for visually quantifying hair growth, the comparison of these methods with objective measurements of hair growth, how hirsutism may be defined using a visual scoring method, the influence of race and ethnicity on hirsutism, and the impact of hirsutism in diagnosing androgen excess and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Objective methods for the assessment of hair growth including photographic evaluations and microscopic measurements are available but these techniques have limitations for clinical use, including a significant degree of complexity and a high cost. Alternatively, methods for visually scoring or quantifying the amount of terminal body and facial hair growth have been in use since the early 1920s; these methods are semi-quantitative at best and subject to significant inter-observer variability. The most common visual method of scoring the extent of body and facial terminal hair growth in use today is based on a modification of the method originally described by Ferriman and Gallwey in 1961 (i.e. the mFG method).
Overall, the mFG scoring method is a useful visual instrument for assessing excess terminal hair growth, and the presence of hirsutism, in women.
hirsutism; hair growth; androgen excess; polycystic ovary syndrome
Hirsutism represents a primary clinical indicator of androgen excess. The most common endocrine condition causing hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Diagnosing PCOS is not easy as the signs and symptoms are heterogenous. The newest diagnostic guideline made by the Androgen Excess and PCOS Society in 2006, claims the presence of hyperandrogenism, and ovarian dysfunction (oligo / anovulation and / or polycystic ovaries). Obesity associated reproductive and metabolic dysfunctions may aggravate the symptoms of PCOS. PCOS might be underdiagnosed in non obese women because lean PCOS phenotypes might be underestimated for the syndrome. Effective medical treatment of PCOS and associated hirsutism depends on the endocrinological expertise and experience of the therapist in each individual case. An algorithm for the treatment has not been established yet.
Endocrinology; hirsutism; medical treatment; polycystic ovary syndrome
Hirsutism is recognized to cause profound distress in affected women, due to cosmetic and psychosexual implications. It was evaluated in the present study by methods found to be valid and reliable in psychosomatic research. Fifty women with hirsutism belonging to the spectrum of disorders from idiopathic hirsutism to polycystic ovary syndrome, after complete medical work-up, underwent the same psychometric evaluation as 50 healthy non-hirsute women, matched for sociodemographic variables. Hirsute women had a Ferriman and Gallwey score ranging from 8 to 19. Psychometric evaluation for quality of life was carried out by the following methods: (a) Kellner's Brief Problem List, a 12 item self-rating list of psychosocial problems; (b) Kellner's Symptom Rating Test (SRT), a 46 item self-rating scale that yields a total score of distress as well as six subscales (anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms, anger-hostility, cognitive and psychotic symptoms); and (c) Marks' Social Situations Questionnaire (SSQ), a 30 item self-rating scale concerned with social phobia. Patients with hirsutism displayed significantly higher social fears at the SSQ than controls (P < 0.01). They also showed more anxiety (P < 0.01) and psychotic symptoms (P < 0.01) at the SRT, whereas there were no significant differences in depression, somatization, anger-hostility and cognitive symptoms. These results suggest that the complex management of hirsute women, in addition to pharmacological and/or cosmetic measures, may require specific psychotherapy.
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.
Polycystic ovaries were defined with ultrasound imaging in a series of 173 women who presented to a gynaecological endocrine clinic with anovulation or hirsutism. Polycystic ovaries were found in 26% of women with amenorrhoea, 87% with oligomenorrhoea, and 92% with idiopathic hirsutism--that is, hirsutism but with regular menstrual cycles. Fewer than half the anovulatory patients with polycystic ovaries were hirsute, but in 93% of cases there was at least one endocrine abnormality to support the diagnosis of polycystic ovaries--that is, raised serum concentrations of luteinising hormone, raised luteinising hormone: follicle stimulating hormone ratio, or raised serum concentrations of testosterone or androstenedione. This study shows that polycystic ovaries, as defined by pelvic ultrasound, are very common in anovulatory women (57% of cases) and are not necessarily associated with hirsutism or a raised serum luteinising hormone concentration. Most women with hirsutism and regular menses have polycystic ovaries so that the term "idiopathic" hirsutism no longer seems appropriate.
Flaxseed is a rich source of lignan and has been shown to reduce androgen levels in men with prostate cancer. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common endocrine disorder among women in their reproductive years, also is associated with high levels of androgens and is frequently accompanied by hirsutism, amenorrhea and obesity. This clinical case study describes the impact of flaxseed supplementation (30 g/day) on hormonal levels in a 31-year old woman with PCOS. During a four month period, the patient consumed 83% of the flaxseed dose. Heights, weights, and fasting blood samples taken at baseline and 4-month follow-up indicated the following values: BMI (36.0 vs. 35.7m/kg2); insulin (5.1 vs. 7.0 uIU/ml); total serum testosterone (150 ng/dl vs. 45 ng/dl); free serum testosterone (4.7 ng/dl vs. 0.5 ng/dl); and % free testosterone (3.1% vs. 1.1%). The patient also reported a decrease in hirsutism at the completion of the study period. The clinically-significant decrease in androgen levels with a concomitant reduction in hirsutism reported in this case study demonstrates a need for further research of flaxseed supplementation on hormonal levels and clinical symptoms of PCOS.
Androgens; Flaxseed; Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; Diet; Intervention Studies
Virilism is the masculinization and enhancement of male secondary sexual characteristics in females. The etiology is usually of adrenal or ovarian origin. Here we report a case of virilizing Leydig cell type, steroid cell tumor of the left ovary, in a 40 year old female who presented with clinical signs and symptoms of virilization: deepening of voice, hirsutism (Ferriman-Gallwey score 26), clitoromegaly, and androgenic alopecia. On further evaluation, laboratory investigations revealed hyperandrogenism in the male range. Basal testosterone values were elevated. Folicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinising Hormone levels were within normal limits. Dexamethasone suppression test did not alter cortisol or testosterone levels. An ovarian mass was confirmed radiologically. Following a total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingoophorectomy, histopathological studies confirmed a left sided steroid-cell ovarian tumor, Leydig cell type (stage T1N0M0), which proved to the etiology of virilization in this patient. Post-operatively her serum testosterone levels declined with near-complete reversal of symptoms over time.
Hirsutism has a significant impact on the quality of life and serves as a marker of underlying hormonal and systemic conditions. The aim of this study was to study the clinical, biochemical characteristics of these patients and other associations.
Materials and Methods:
Fifty (n=50) consecutive newly diagnosed patients of hirsutism were assessed during a period from August 2009 to July 2010 using modified Ferriman Gallwey (mF-G) score.
Idiopathic hirsutism (IH) was found in 30 (60%) patients followed by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in 19 (38%) patients. Other causes included late-onset classic adrenal hyperplasia in two (4%) and hypothyroidism in four (8%) patients. The mean age at presentation was 23.8±6.657 years. Total (T) and free testosterone (fT), 17-hydroxyprogesterone was significantly higher in PCOS than IH.
The present data show IH as the commonest cause of hirsutism in our study population. Face, chest, and lower abdomen have a higher impact on the hirsutism score while upper back, abdomen, and lower back are rarely involved.
Ferriman–gallwey score; hirsutism; polycystic ovarian syndrome
Leydig stromal cell tumor is a rare ovarian tumor that belongs to the group of sex-cord stromal tumors. They produce testosterone leading to hyperandrogenism. We present a 41yr old woman with symptoms of virilization and a mass of right adenex via ultra Sonography, and a rise of total and free serum testosterone. An ovarian source of androgen was suspected and a surgery performed. A diagnosis of leydig-stromal cell tumor was confirmed.
Our report is a reminder that although idiopathic hirsutism and other benign androgen excess disorder like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOs) are common, ovarian mass should be considered in differential diagnosis.
Leydig stromal cell tumor; Androgen secreting neoplasm; Virilizing ovarian tumors; Sex cord-stromal cell tumor
Hirsutism is a common medical condition that in most women is due to the polycystic ovary syndrome or is idiopathic. For a few women, hirsutism signals a serious underlying disorder such as an ovarian or adrenal tumor, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or Cushing's syndrome. A detailed medical history and examination can identify women in whom a serious disease is suspected and for whom laboratory evaluation is warranted. Measurements of serum testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone levels, and 24-hour urinary cortisol concentrations are important screening tests. Therapy is directed at suppressing ovarian or adrenal androgen production, inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, or antagonizing the effects of androgens at the receptor level.
Polycystic ovarian disease represents a poorly defined spectrum of clinical disorders having oligo-ovulation or anovulation as a common feature. There is no single, universally accepted biochemical or clinical definition. Clinical findings usually include anovulation resulting in irregular uterine bleeding and infertility, androgen excess resulting in hirsutism and acne, and obesity. The patho-physiology involves altered functions of the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovary and adrenal glands, resulting in failure of folliculogenesis to regularly proceed to ovulation. The cause of the initiating event in this disease process remains enigmatic. Therapy for the various abnormalities in polycystic ovarian disease is tailored to a patient's needs and may include preventing endometrial hyperplasia, controlling irregular uterine bleeding, controlling hirsutism and inducing ovulation.
Forty two women with hidradenitis suppurativa were assessed clinically and biochemically for evidence of androgen excess. Thirteen had irregular menses; 22 of 36 experienced exacerbation of hidradenitis suppurativa premenstrually; 19 had or had had acne vulgaris; and seven were hirsute. Comedones (blackheads) were found in apocrine sites in 37, but also in retroauricular sites in 18 and were considered to be an important physical sign for early diagnosis. Eight had evidence of pilonidal (postanal) sinus. The patients had a higher concentration of total testosterone (p less than 0.01) and free androgen index (testosterone to sex hormone binding globulin concentrations) (p less than 0.01) than normal controls. Patients with hidradenitis suppurativa appear to have endocrine abnormalities sufficient to suggest an androgenic basis for the disease.
Background. Steroid cell ovarian tumors, not otherwise specified, represent a unique cause of female virilization. Most commonly encountered in premenopausal women, these tumors can exist throughout a women's lifetime, from before puberty until after menopause. Case. Steroid cell, not otherwise specified, was diagnosed in a 70-year-old female significant for hirsutism. The patient demonstrated elevated total testosterone levels with normal gonadotropins, DHEA, and DHEA-S levels. CT imaging revealed a right ovarian mass and subsequent laparoscopic right oophorectomy yielded clinical improvement promptly. Conclusion. Virilization in females can occur based on ovarian or adrenal pathology. In terms of ovarian-based female virilization, many tumors exist that may induce women to demonstrate masculine features, such as pure Sertoli, pure Leydig, Sertoli-Leydig combinations, and gynandroblastomas. Each of these tumor types possesses a unique histologic pattern that allows for pathologic identification after removal. A rare source of ovarian-based female virilization is steroid cell neoplasms, not otherwise specified, that do not demonstrate these specific histologic characteristics and thus represent a diagnosis of exclusion after other causes of ovarian-based female virilization have been ruled out.
A 16-year-old girl presented with primary amenorrhea and excess hair growth on her body and face for the last three years, along with pain and a mass in her lower abdomen for last one year. Examination revealed hirsutism and other virilizing features, with an irregular mass in the lower abdomen corresponding to 16 weeks’gestation. Serum testosterone was 320 ng / dl and ultrasonogram of the pelvis revealed a solid mass of 5 × 4 cm in the left adnexa. Suspecting it to be a virilizing tumor of the left ovary, the patient was subjected to staging laparotomy, which revealed stage 1a ovarian involvement amenable to surgical resection alone. Histopathological examination confirmed the diagnosis of granulosa cell tumor of the ovary. Postoperatively the serum testosterone returned to 40 ng / dl and her menstrual cycle started after two months of surgery.
Granulosa cell tumor; hirsutism; primary amenorrhea; virilization
To determine the proportion of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) patients who have normal body mass index (BMI) and to compare the clinical, hormonal, and metabolic profile between lean and overweight patients of PCOS.
Materials and Methods:
One hundred consecutive infertile women with PCOS were studied and divided into lean (BMI between 18.5 and 23) and overweight (BMI ≥ 23). Metabolic and hormonal profile (serum FSH, LH, testosterone, prolactin, TSH on days 2–3 of menstrual cycle; serum progesterone premenstrually; serum insulin—fasting and 2 hours postglucose, glucose tolerance test, and fasting serum lipid profile) was performed along with pelvic sonogropahy; and clinical features, viz. waist hip ratio, hirsutism, acne, acanthosis nigricans, and clitoromegaly were recorded.
42% of the PCOS subjects had normal BMI. Average age, hirsutism (80.9% vs. 89.7%), irregular cycles (92.8% vs. 96.6%), acne (9.5% vs. 15.5%), clitoromegaly (2.3% vs. 3.4%), endometrial thickness >4 mm (9.5% vs. 15.5%), and hormonal profile were similar in the lean and overweight PCOS groups. Family history of diabetes (9.5% vs. 24.1%), abnormal glucose tolerance test (GTT) (4.7% vs. 10.3%), deranged lipid profile (14.2% vs. 31%), and 2-hour postprandial insulin levels were higher in the overweight PCOS (P < 0.05). Insulin resistance was observed in 83.3% of lean PCOS but was still lower than 93.1% seen in overweight PCOS (P < 0.05).
42% of the PCOS had normal BMI, but clinical and hormonal profile was similar to PCOS patients with elevated BMI (overweight/obese). However, insulin resistance is observed in 83.3% of lean PCOS. Family history of diabetes, impaired GTT, deranged lipid profile, and insulin resistance were more prevalent in overweight PCOS.
Metabolic syndrome; obesity; overweight; polycystic ovary syndrome
A 30-year-old woman presents with a history of no menses since she stopped taking oral contraceptives 6 months ago in order to conceive. She had undergone puberty that was normal in both timing and development, with menarche at 12 years of age. At 18 years of age, she started taking oral contraceptives for irregular menses. She reports stress at work. Her weight is 59 kg, and her height 1.66 m; her body-mass index (the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) is 21.3. There is no galactorrhea, hirsutism, or acne. The pelvic examination is normal, a pregnancy test is negative, the prolactin level is normal, and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level is in the menopausal range. How should she be evaluated and treated?
We describe here the case of a 39-year-old woman with a cortisol-producing adrenal adenoma and she presented with endometrial hyperplasia and hypertension without the specific characteristics of Cushing's syndrome. The patient had consulted a gynecologist for menometrorrhagia 2 years prior to her referral and she was diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia and hypertension. Her blood pressure and the endometrial lesion were refractory despite taking multiple antihypertensives and repetitive dilation and curettage and progestin treatment. On admission, the clinical examination revealed mild central obesity (a body mass index of 22.9 kg/m2, a waist circumference of 85 cm and a hip circumference of 94cm), but there was no hirsutism and myopathy. She showed impaired glucose tolerance on an oral glucose tolerance test. The biochemical hypercortisolemia together with the prolactin and androgen levels were evaluated to explore the cause of her anovulation. Adrenal Cushing's syndrome was confirmed on the basis of the elevated urinary free cortisol (454 µg/24h, normal range: 20-70) with a suppressed ACTH level (2.0 pg/mL, normal range: 6.0-76.0) and the loss of circadian cortisol secretion. A CT scan revealed a 3.1 cm, hyperechoic, well-marginated mass in the left adrenal gland. Ten months post-adrenalectomy, the patient had unintentionally lost 9 kg of body weight, had regained a regular menstrual cycle and had normal thickness of her endometrium.
Cushing syndrome; Endometrial hyperplasia; Metabolic syndrome X; Adrenocortical adenoma
The average plasma testosterone concentration of women with either hirsutism or polycystic ovaries and hirsutism was higher (p < 0.01) than that of normal women although the ranges overlapped. Testosterone blood production rates averaged 830 ± 120 SE and 1,180 ± 310 SE μg per day in the two groups of hirsute women and 230 ± 33 SE μg per day in normal women. The ranges did not overlap.
The testosterone metabolic clearance rates of hirsute women (1,090 ± 140 SE L per day) and of men (1,240 ± 136 SE L per day) were significantly higher than those of normal women (590 ± 44 SE L per day). These differences persisted when the metabolic clearance rates were corrected for surface area. We suggest that testosterone metabolic clearance rates vary directly with some function of testosterone production.
The mean plasma androstenedione levels (2.8 ± 0.35 SE and 2.8 ± 0.30 SE μg per L) and production rates (6,060 ± 450 SE and 7,360 ± 345 SE μg per day) of the women with hirsutism or polycystic ovaries, respectively, were significantly higher than those of normal women (1.5 ± 0.22 SE μg per L; 3,300 ± 830 SE μg per day). The androstenedione metabolic clearance rates were the same in each group. Plasma androstenedione was the precursor of 49% of plasma testosterone in normal women and of 26% of plasma testosterone in hirsute women. Thus, 74% of the plasma testosterone in these subjects must have been either secreted or derived from a precursor that did not enter the plasma androstenedione pool.
Dihydrotestosterone metabolism was studied with a constant infusion technique in three men, three women, five hirsute women, and four estrogen-treated hirsute women. The mean dihydrotestosterone metabolic clearance rate was higher in men (336 liters/24 hr per m2 [range, 239-448]) than in women (153 liters/24 hr per m2 [range, 108-184]). The metabolic clearance rates in hirsute patients were intermediate between those men and women and were decreased by estrogen treatment. These observations demonstrate similarities in the metabolic rates of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
The conversion of plasma testosterone and androstenedione to dihydrotestosterone was studied in men and hirsute women. Approximately 4 and 2% of plasma testosterone and androstenedione, respectively, were converted to plasma dihydrotestosterone in both groups. From these observations it was determined that a major fraction of plasma dihydrotestosterone was derived from these plasma precursors rather than from glandular secretion.
Both 5α-androstan-3α,17β-diol (3α-diol) and 5α-androstan-3β,17β-diol (3β-diol) were identified in plasma during dihydrotestosterone and testosterone infusions. The conversion ratio of dihydrotestosterone to 3α-diol (CBBDHT-3α) was greater than the conversion ratio to the 3β-isomer (CBBDTH-3β) in all the patients studied. Both CBBDHT-3α and CBBDHT-3β were higher in men (mean values of 0.151 [range, 0.110-0.222] and 0..031 [range, 0.022-0.042]) than in women (means of 0.044 [range, 0.037-0.048] and 0.012 [range 0.010-0.013]). A smaller fraction of testosterone was converted to 3α-diol and 3β-diol.
To describe provocative testing and alternative imaging strategies used to localize an androgen-producing tumor in a 58 year old woman with severe hirsutism.
Clinical Research Center.
A 58 year old woman who presented for evaluation of severe hirsutism.
Serum androgens were drawn at baseline, 4 hours after administration of 2000 IU of hCG and 11 days following administration of 3.75 mg of leuprolide. MRI and FDG-PET/CT were performed.
Main Outcome Measure(s):
Description of pre-operative provocative testing and imaging.
In response to hCG, testosterone rose from 243 to 288 ng/dL then decreased to 233 ng/dL following leuprolide administration. FDG-PET/CT scan demonstrated focal hypermetabolism in the right pelvis, corresponding to a soft tissue density on the non-contrast CT. MRI images were correlated with the PET/CT and the right ovary was identified. Right salpingo-oophorectomy was performed and final pathology revealed a hilar cell tumor with ovarian cortical hyperplasia.
This case demonstrates the utility of provocative testing in the evaluation of a patient with severe hirsutism and illustrates the value of FDG-PET/CT when traditional imaging is non-diagnostic.
hirsutism; testosterone; hilar cell tumor; FDG-PET/CT
There is no clear and contemporaneous method for screening of idiopathic hirsutism (IH) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at the community level and current estimates regarding their prevalence are limited. We aimed to ascertain the prevalence of IH and PCOS in a randomly selected sample of reproductive aged female participants of the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study (TLGS).
One thousand and two women, aged 18-45 years, were randomly selected from among reproductive aged women who participated in the TLGS. Those women with either hirsutism or menstrual dysfunction were assessed for biochemical hyperandrogenemia; whereas those participants with hirsutism per se were further assessed for subclinical menstrual dysfunction. PCOS were diagnosed using the National Institute of Health (NIH) criteria. IH was defined as hirsutism without clinical or sub clinical menstrual dysfunction or biochemical hyperandrogenemia (BH).
The mean ± SD of age of study population was 29.2 ± 8.7 years. Estimated prevalences of idiopathic hirsutism and pure menstrual dysfunction were 13.0% (95% CI: 10.9%-15.1%) and 1.5%(95% CI: 1.1%-1.9%), respectively. The prevalence of PCOS was 8.5% (95% CI: 6.8% - 10.2%); more than one third of these cases would possibly have remained undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, had we not assessed them for subclinical menstrual dysfunction or biochemical hyperandrogenemia.
These data from a large representative and non selected population of women confirm the concept that IH and PCOS are the two most common gynecological endocrinopathies among reproductive aged women. The estimated prevalence of these conditions is highly influenced by their screening methods at the community level.
Prevalence; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS); NIH criteria; Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study (TLGS); Idiopathic Hirsutism (IH)
Forty-eight hirsute women were treated with spironolactone 100 mg twice daily for 3 to 12 months. Both facial and body hirsuties improved by 30-40%, and there was a threefold reduction in frequency of local treatments such as waxing or shaving. Plasma testosterone fell by 30%, though the improvement in hirsuties grading did not correlate with the fall in plasma testosterone. Six subjects discontinued treatment because of lack of effect, and 4 because of menstrual disturbance. Spironolactone was equally effective in the treatment of idiopathic hirsutism and of the polycystic ovary syndrome.
In normal females, androstenedione from both the adrenal cortex and ovary, as a result of peripheral conversion, is the source of the majority of biologically active testosterone in the circulation. The control of the secretion of precursor steroid and androgenic hormone (testosterone) in females is not clear at this time. There are a number of possibilities to explain various types of hirsutism and virilization. The presence of true virilization indicates a significant disorder and requires complete investigation.
The presence of increased amounts of 17-ketosteroids in the urine implicates the adrenal cortex as a source of the pathologic manifestations. The suppressibility of elevated 17-ketosteroids with cortisol analogues aids in distinguishing between adrenal hyperplasia and autonomous neoplasm of the adrenal cortex.
By far the most common entity in this area is simple hirsutism without virilization. Although our knowledge of this disorder is quite incomplete, conservative management is indicated. Further progress in this field is rapidly occurring. An informed clinician can do an adequate job of diagnosis and treatment with the clinical and laboratory tools generally available.