Although women normally have androgens – so-called "male" hormones – circulating in their bloodstreams, excessive levels can cause a variety of symptoms including acne, weight gain, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), menstrual dysfunction, and infertility.
Hirsutism – the growth of coarse hair in patterns similar to those of men – has long been considered the key marker for androgen excess. Physicians have had difficulty providing a firm diagnosis and identifying underlying causes, however, because a number of disorders can cause hirsutism, not all women with hirsutism have evidence of androgen excess, and not all patients who have androgen excess disorders suffer from hirsutism. Determining the most effective treatment has been challenging, too. While most women have been treated with single-agent hormone therapy, a combination approach has been suggested as a better alternative, but comparison studies have been conducted in only small samples of patients.
Now a long-term study – perhaps the largest of its kind to date – identifies the most common causes of androgen excess in women and compares therapeutic approaches, showing that combination hormonal therapy can improve most symptoms. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham report their findings in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in an "Extensive Personal Experience" article.
Sandra Van | Van Communications
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