I provide care in a women’s prison and have noted a number of patients with excess body hair. These women are tired of shaving facial hair and discouraged by the ridicule it engenders from other inmates. What is the best, safest and most cost-effective treatment for these patients? — Lana K. Fowler, FNP, Kansas City, Mo.

Hair growth that is abnormal for the age, sex or race of an individual or a particular area of the body is referred to as hypertrichosis. Male-pattern hair growth in a woman or a child is known as hirsutism.

In addition to shaving, cosmetic approaches for treating hirsutism include bleaching the hair, using depilatory creams, waxing, threading and electrolysis. Photodynamic treatment and laser hair removal are also effective (Am Fam Physician. 2012;85:373-380).

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Pharmacologic management (e.g., gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, combined oral contraceptives, and steroidal or nonsteroidal antiandrogens) is also available for treating hirsutism in women with hyperandrogenism (polycystic ovary syndrome) or with normal serum androgen levels and regular ovulatory menstrual cycles (idiopathic hirsutism).— Philip R. Cohen, MD (184-5)

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