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Eur J Endocrinol. 2013 Dec 21;170(2):R75-90. doi: 10.1530/EJE-13-0585. Print 2014 Feb.

Therapy in endocrine disease: treatment of hirsutism in the polycystic ovary syndrome.

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Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medical and Surgical Science (DIMEC), S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, University Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna, Via Massarenti 9, 40138 Bologna, Italy.


Hirsutism is a common medical complaint among women of reproductive age, and it affects the majority of women with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Increased rate of androgen production and its availability in tissue represent the main pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for hirsutism. In addition, androgens may be generated de novo in the hair follicle; therefore, circulating androgen levels do not quantify the real exposure of the hair follicle to androgens, as a quota is locally generated. Hirsutism is a clinical sign and not a disease in itself; its presence does not therefore necessarily require treatment, particularly in mild-to-moderate forms, and when an affected woman does not worry about it. Physicians should decide whether hirsutism is to be treated or not by evaluating not only the severity of the phenomenon but also the subjective perception of the patient, which does not necessarily correspond to the true extent of hair growth. In any case, a physician should manage a woman with hirsutism only on the basis of a diagnosis of the underlying cause, and after a clear explanation of the efficacy of each therapeutic choice. Cosmetic procedures and pharmacological intervention are commonly used in the treatment of hirsutism and are discussed in this paper. Importantly, there are different phenotypes of women with hirsutism and PCOS that may require specific attention in the choice of treatment. In particular, when obesity is present, lifestyle intervention should be always considered, and if necessary combined with pharmacotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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