DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I watch a lot of TV news. Without naming names, there are two very attractive women reporters, darkhaired, who have prominent mustaches.
Is unwanted hair removal so very painful or costly that they would not have it done? We have a niece with the same problem, but I would never mention it to her. — D.B.
ANSWER: Many women have hair growing in places usually reserved only for men — the mustache area, the chin, the chest, the upper back and the arms. It’s called hirsuitism (HER-sue-tizm), and it’s not uncommon. About 5 percent of women in the childbearing years have it, and more women develop it after menopause.
It has to do with the balance between male and female hormones. Women make male hormones. Some make slightly more than normal, and other women might have hair follicles that are more sensitive to male hormones than they should be. In either case, hirsuitism is the result. It might be the only sign of male hormone production, or there may be other signs of hormone excess.
For many, this is nothing more than a family trait. For others, it can be a sign of trouble in the adrenal gland, the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland or the ovaries. One somewhat-common condition that produces such an imbalance is poly- cystic ovary syndrome.
Not every woman with mustache growth needs an exhaustive investigation, but women should mention it to their doctor to see if the doctor thinks further pursuit is in order.
A number of options are open to women who want the hair removed. Shaving and bleaching the hair are two cheap ones. Vaniqa cream — relatively new — can be effective. Electrolysis and laser treatments destroy the hair follicles. Electrolysis is somewhat painful, but not so greatly painful that it’s unbearable. Women reporters can afford either procedure. Male hormone excess can be treated with a number of medicines, and that can rid women of unwanted hair.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Isn’t liver cirrhosis the final cause of death in alcoholics? My dad was an alcoholic, but he didn’t die of cirrhosis. Why? — L.C.
ANSWER: Not every alcoholic develops cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver. Your dad might have had a genetic endowment that protected his liver.
©2013 North America Synd.