Reasons Leading to Virilization in Women

Virilization refers to an abnormal development of male physiological characteristics in females. This may include excessive hair growth known as hirsutism.

Let’s discuss briefly the mechanism and causes of virilization and hirsutism in women.

Detection of cause is made on the basis of symptoms and age group. A general list would include:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Disease
  • Long term exposure to anabolic steroids
  • Conn’s Syndrome
  • Taking hormonal pills
  • Ovarian Hyperthecosis
  • Presence of androgen producing tumor in the body like that of adrenal or pituitary
  • Thyroid problem

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

The syndrome is characterized by the formation of cysts inside the ovary. Consequently ovarian functions are hampered.

There are menstrual irregularities along with the presence of high levels of male hormone.

PCOS in the leading cause of female sub-fertility these days.

Ovarian Hyperthecosis

It is more common in post-menopausal women. Hyperplasia of the ovarian stromal cells occurs. Luteinization takes place and androgens are produced. These androgens cause hirsutism and virilization.

Adrenal Tumors

These may be malignant or benign. A benign tumor of adrenal gland called adrenal adenoma is quite common. It may occur at any age.

The adrenal cortex is made up of layers of cells which produce steroid hormones.

These hormones include:

  •  Glucocorticoids- responsible for regulating the glucose levels in the blood
  • Mineralocorticoids- regulate the electrolyte balance, hence influence blood pressure and kidney function
  • Sex corticoids- regulate the production of sex hormones.

Depending upon the kind of cells that are involved in the tumor, the patient may express those particular symptoms.