Hirsutism is excess male-pattern hair growth in women. The coarse, dark hair can occur in areas such as the face, chest, and back.

True hirsutism is often due to an increased level of a male sex hormone called androgen. The main circulating androgen is called testosterone. This hormone is normally found in both men and women. There are certain medical conditions or medications that may cause an elevation in the levels of this hormone in women.

The most common cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome. Other less common include:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Some forms of Cushing syndrome
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Ovarian tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Certain medications, including:
    • Minoxidil
    • Cyclosporine
    • Phenytoin
    • Anabolic steroids
    • Diazoxide
    • Progestin-containing medications (such as oral contraceptives)

Sometimes excess hair growth is due to the person's ethnic background or family tendencies. In some cases, the cause is not known.