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. There are several medications which can reportedly cause hirsutism in women.
Systemic Corticosteroids and Other Anabolic Steroids
Steroids are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat hormonal issues like delayed puberty, irregular periods etc. They are also used to rebuild muscles which are lost due to diseases like cancer and AIDS. Steroids can cause hormonal imbalance and in consequence hirsutism.
Prednisolone is used as long term treatment for conditions like asthma and autoimmune diseases (like SLE), where your body develops antibodies to attack its own tissue.
Glucocorticoids are used to treat adrenal insufficiency and help balance the hormone levels. They are also used to suppress various allergic, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.
Long term application of topical steroids like betamethasone and clobetasol creams and ointments in large areas of skin can lead to absorption of steroids into the blood. Topical steroids are commonly used for the long term treatment of the chronic conditions psoriasis and eczema.
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
- 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.
- Danazol – Danazol, a synthetic androgen, is used for endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease in females 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 many androgenic side effects like hirsutism.
- Phenytoin (Dilantin) – Phenytoin is an anti-seizure medication. It is commonly used to prevent partial seizures and tonic-clonic seizures. Hirsutism is one of the many side effects of phenytoin.
- 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 males and females. It helps women with thinning hair. 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. It also has anti –hypertensive properties. Diazoxide can induce the enzyme 5-alpha reductase which converts testosterone to a more potent form DHT.
- Acitretin (Soriatane) – This is a drug which is used in severe psoriasis. Hirsutism is one of its side effects.
- Streptomycin – Streptomycin is a broad spectrum antibiotic which is used as one of the drugs in anti TB multi-drug-treatment.
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 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 drugs 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.