If you’re a woman, watching your lip hair change from light, downy fuzz to coarse, dark hair that rivals a man’s mustache can be very unsettling. Generally speaking, heredity and hormonal factors play a large role in this development, and there is usually no need for alarm. However, excessive facial hair in women isn’t necessarily normal. In fact, there are several causes of lip hair growth that may indicate the presence of an underlying disorder.
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Hirsutism is characterized by an increase in hair growth on the face, most often on the chin and above the lip. In some cases, unwanted hair growth may extend to other areas of the body, as well. The primary cause of hirsutism is an elevated level of male androgen hormones, namely testosterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 percent of women are affected by this disorder.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says that hirsutism tends to run in families. In addition, women of certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to developing this condition, most notably those of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian decent. The academy also points out that some medications may stimulate lip hair growth in women, such as anabolic steroids, hormone therapy and danazol, a drug used to treat endometriosis.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
As the term “congenital” implies, this condition is inherited and involves an excessive secretion of steroid hormones from the adrenal glands, specifically cortisol and androgen. This condition, says the Mayo Clinic staff, may also cause lip hair growth.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
According to the Mayo Clinic, this is a relatively common disorder and the most common cause of accelerated facial hair growth in women. Polycystic ovary syndrome, or POS, is caused by an imbalance of hormone levels, which often leads to the development of ovarian cysts. Other clues that POS may be present include unexplained weight gain, infertility and irregular menstruation.
Cushing's syndrome occurs when your adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of cortisol, the steroid hormone released in response to stress. Over time, this situation results in an imbalance of hormones in your body and, says the Mayo Clinic staff, contributes to excess lip hair growth. However, taking cortisol medications for an extended period of time may also cause Cushing’s syndrome.
The formation of tumors in the adrenal glands or ovaries may stimulate the overproduction of male hormones in women and lead to unwanted facial hair, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The Academy advises seeing a doctor if you have a sudden increase in facial hair, your periods become irregular or your voice deepens.