10 Drugs That Can Cause Hirsutism
Hirsutism refers to the development of male pattern hair growth in women. It can be a familial trait or caused by a medical condition that leads to excess testosterone, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and androgen producing tumors in ovaries or adrenal glands. Also, there are several medications which can reportedly cause hirsutism in women.
Systemic Corticosteroids and Other Anabolic Steroids
Corticosteroids, are anti-inflammatory drugs that are often used to treat conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and asthma. An example of corticosteroids is prednisolone, which may be used as a long term treatment for conditions like asthma and autoimmune diseases (like SLE), where your body develops antibodies to attack its own tissue. Hirsutism can be one of the side effects of corticosteroids.
Anabolic androgenic steroids which are used to build muscle and improve performance in athletes can also cause hirsutism as a side effect. Sometimes steroids are misused by athletes and body builders. Prolonged use can cause hirsutism and virilization.
Drugs That Can Cause Hirsutism or Excess Hair Growth
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) – Fluoxetine is a commonly used drug and is very effective in treating depression. It is also used in obsessive compulsive disorders and for panic attacks. Fluoxetine is usually prescribed long-term until the symptoms subside and as a mood stabilizer. In rare cases, prozac can lead to hirsutism.
- Danazol – Danazol, a synthetic androgen, is used for the treatment of endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease in women and to treat hereditary angio edema. It affects the ovaries and pituitary gland and prevents the release of certain hormones. Danazol is not a very commonly used drug these days, as it has androgenic side effects like hirsutism.
- Minoxidil – Minoxidil comes in form of lotions and foam. It is used to treat male pattern baldness and promotes growth of hair. 2% Minoxidil solution can be used in both men and women. When used continuously you will notice new hair growth. When a woman applies Minoxidil on her scalp, it can trickle down to your face and may cause unwanted facial hair growth. Minoxidil can get absorbed into blood and may cause hirsutism as a side effect.
- Cyclosporin – Cyclosporin is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, severe psoriasis and to prevent organ rejection following kidney, heart and liver transplant. It promotes hair epithelial cell proliferation and can lead to unwanted hair growth.
- Diazoxide – Diazoxide is used to treat symptoms of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level). Pancreatic cancer surgery can give rise to low blood sugar. Diazoxide can induce the enzyme 5-alpha reductase which converts testosterone to a more potent form DHT.
- Phenytoin – Phenytoin is used as an anti-seizure medication. In case of a long-term use, hirsutism may be one of its side effect.
- Penicillamine – Penicillamine is sometimes used as a medication to treat Wilson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Interferon – Interferon can be used to treat viral infections.
Is Your Hirsutism Caused by Your Medication?
If you are are struggling with hirsutism symptoms and have been taking any of the medications above for a long time, you should discuss alternatives with your doctor. Once you have discussed it with your doctor and they have agreed that you may stop taking the drug that is causing the hirsutism, your symptoms (excess hair, acne, etc.) should gradually disappear as well.
While it is possible that the medications you are taking are responsible for your hirsutism symptoms, there are many other possible causes. In order to treat hirsutism effectively, it is crucial you work with your doctor to understand the underlying issue and address it accordingly.