Twenty-seven year old Priya was busy concentrating on her new job and the new promotion at work. The entire week seemed to just pass by meeting the set targets and handling every responsibility in the best possible manner. After a long hard day she barely struggled to find time for a decent dinner with hubby. Then came the weekend which just winked away completing the back log or catch up some really needed rest after the hard work she used to put in. While both knew and had read a lot on the art of healthy eating, it didn’t take much to give way to the temptations of tasty and readily available food at any nearby eatery.
Things went on this way till one fine Sunday morning Priya noticed that she had put on a couple of inches and oops! Did she see more darker and prominent hair on the chin! A second look in the mirror confirmed what she suspected! All sorts of ideas to quickly fix this one, ran across her mind. But a thoughtful and sensible Priya did realize that it was important to know the reason behind this. What if she was just imagining this or was there seriously something wrong?
A more embarrassed and little surprised Priya did know that she was stressed out. She even knew that she had been pushing herself and working really hard and yes she wanted a break! But hello where was the time? But had stress lead to this kind of hair growth! Aren’t all her female colleagues stressed out! Do they also face this kind of excessive facial hair ever! Well the next obvious and sensible thought was to consult a doctor.
Many of us often notice those unwanted dark strands of hair growth on all the unwanted places. The feeling of being less desirable or probably less feminine takes over. The term of excessive hair growth or the male pattern of hair growth seen amongst females is termed as ‘hirsutism’. Hirsutism while being a common problem amongst females of all age groups including even the children has many underlying causes. And yes stress has been found to be one of the most common etiology behind hirsutism amongst women.
Well, the reason why stress doesn't lead to this condition in all the females is that some of us are more sensitive to stress than others. All kinds of stress: emotional, physical, psychological or any trauma has various kinds of impacts on our health. Hirsutism or excessive hair growth is just one of them. Researches explain that stress leads to the stimulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and the hypothalamus-adrenal-ovarian axis in the brain. The stress stimulation of adrenal glands secretes all hormones to overcome and manage stress by the body. As a result, hormones including testosterone (also secreted by the ovaries) are also secreted in excess. Overproduction of testosterone (the male hormone responsible for development of male secondary sex characteristics) leads to the development of these characteristics in females too (including male pattern of hair growth, increased muscle and bone mass, hoarseness of voice).
One quickly retorts to solving the esthetic impacts of excessive hair, but consulting a doctor is one of the most important factors behind the condition. Stress does bear its share of burden but PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian disease), hereditary predisposition to excessive hair growth, hirsutism as a side-effect to a drug, or some disease conditions should also be ruled out. Few hormonal tests and an ultrasound usually are the routine tests prescribed by gynaecologists to help diagnose the condition.
Presence of Polycystic ovary is a common condition present in around 10% of women world-over. Overweight or obesity, resistance to insulin, lack of exercise are some of the other factors contributing to hirsutism.
Treatment of hirsutism includes managing both the cosmetic as well the etiological aspect behind the condition. Lasers, epilation, threading and waxing are commonly used. Use of oral contraceptives, spirinolactones, and many other drugs are also commonly prescribed by physicians. The topical cream eflornithine hydrochloride has been observed to help treat the condition. But the drug is not advised in pregnant females.
Homeopathy also offers many drugs like Sepia, sulphur, pulsatilla, natrum muriaticum which are eminent remedies to deal with the condition accurately. Alternative medicine and naturopathy has also been advised by experts to help treat the dreaded condition . A low-carbohydrate, fiber-rich diet which includes anti-oxidants has also shown to help.
Many herbs have demonstrated the effects of lowering testosterone in various researches .Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), Spearmint & Camomile tea (Mentha spicata) are the most common amongst these. Ayurveda classifies excessive hair growth in females as ‘pitta dosh’ and practicing some specific yogasanas have been found to increase the blood circulation to the ovaries.
Meditation & practicing Shavasana have been found to help in bringing down the stress levels.
Nonetheless, a balanced way of life, taking out time to for one’s health and learning to take a break are the key essentials to a happier healthier life.
--Dr. Chhavi Kapur Motwani