Hirsutism refers to the male pattern of hair growth seen in females. The racial variation in hair growth must be considered. Certain races (e.g. Mediterranean and Asian) have more male pattern hair growth than northern European females. If virilizing features (deep voice, clitoromegaly, dysmenorrhoea, acne) are present, a full endocrine assessment is required.
The face is the commonest site of affection, especially the upper lip and chin, although in severe cases the submandibular region and sideburns also grow coarse hair. Other body sites such as the chest (sternum, breasts), abdomen (upper pubic triangle), anterior thighs, back, linea alba, and extremities may also be involved. Hirsutism can cause severe psychological distress to some individuals.
Hypertrichosis refers to the state of excessive hair growth at any site and occurs in both sexes. It can be seen in anorexia nervosa, porphyria cutanea tarda, and underlying malignancy and is caused by certain drugs (e.g. ciclosporin, minoxidil).