DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I watch a lot of TV news. Without naming names, there are two very attractive women reporters, dark-haired, who have prominent mustaches. I find this distracting.
Is unwanted hair removal so very painful or costly that they would not have it done? We have a niece with the same problem, but I would never mention it to her. What’s going on? – D.B.
ANSWER: Many women have hair growing in places usually reserved only for men – the mustache area, the chin, the chest, the upper back and the arms. It’s called hirsuitism (HER-sue-tizm), and it’s not uncommon. About 5 percent of women in the childbearing years have it, and more women develop it after menopause.
It has to do with the balance between male and female hormones. Women make male hormones. Some make slightly more than normal, and other women might have hair follicles that are more sensitive to male hormones than they should be. In either case, hirsuitism is the result. It might be the only sign of male hormone production, or there may be other signs of hormone excess.
For many, this is nothing more than a family trait. For others, it can be a sign of trouble in the adrenal gland, the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland or the ovaries. One somewhat-common condition that produces such an imbalance is polycystic ovary syndrome.
Not every woman with mustache growth needs an exhaustive investigation, but women should mention it to their doctor to see if the doctor thinks further pursuit is in order.
A number of options are open to women who want the hair removed. Shaving and bleaching the hair are two cheap ones. Vaniqa cream – relatively new – can be effective. Electrolysis and laser treatments destroy the hair follicles. Electrolysis is somewhat painful, but not so greatly painful that it’s unbearable. Women reporters can afford either procedure. Male hormone excess can be treated with a number of medicines, and that can rid women of unwanted hair.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My next-door neighbor turned yellow… bright yellow. I had never seen that before. Her husband says she has jaundice. What exactly is that? How is it treated? – C.M.
ANSWER: Jaundice indicates that the skin and the whites of the eyes have turned yellow. It’s not an illness. It comes from the French word for yellow.
Jaundice indicates liver trouble. When the liver is functioning normally, it clears the blood of bilirubin, a byproduct of worn-out red blood cells. If the liver’s not up to par, bilirubin levels in the blood rise, and that turns the skin and whites of the eyes yellow.
Your neighbor’s doctor has the task of finding the cause of jaundice. Only if the cause is identified can the liver be properly treated.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Isn’t liver cirrhosis the final cause of death in alcoholics? My dad was an alcoholic, but he didn’t die of cirrhosis. Why? – L.C.
ANSWER: Not every alcoholic develops cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver. Your dad might have had a genetic endowment that protected his liver.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
© 2013 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved