Brave housewife with PCOS grows her facial hair for Movember

A woman, who has battled hirsutism as a result of abnormal levels of male hormone testosterone, has appeared on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ as her ‘Movember’ charity bid comes to an end.  Movember is a month-long annual event primarily involving men being challenged to grow-out their facial hair. It aims to raise awareness and funds for men’s health; in particularly prostate and testicular cancer.

Siobhain Fletcher 36, from Leek, Staffordshire, suffers from a condition known as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and has had to try and fight excessive facial hair growth since she was 17-years-old when she noticed whiskers beginning to grow on her upper lip region. During the next few years the hair growth began to worsen and Siobhain found herself having to trim whiskers from her lip and chin almost daily.

Over the next five years she became deeply distraught about her problem and cruel comments from others left her unable to leave the house for the majority of the time.

Speaking to Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield on This Morning, she explained that a friend’s participation in Movember had inspired her to use her condition positively instead of feeling depressed about her situation. She says “It helps people get checked for prostate and testicular cancer, and hopefully people will, instead of going to a funeral, be going to a remission party.”

Retracing the distressing few years that led up to her joining charity appeal, she said: “I had such low self-esteem. I used to clip it off with scissors, and dress very androgynously. I got stared at a lot and got mistaken for a man. It took its toll. Even though I was pretty, I didn’t feel like that…The only time I left the house was to go and see my horses. They don’t care what you look like, as long as you’ve got food.”

Siobhain tried various hair-removal methods such as waxing and electrolysis, but found no success through either. With her having very sensitive skin, the hot wax ended up removing both her hair and skin.  Electrolysis also proved unsuccessful as it can only remove around 10 to 15 hairs at a time and Siobhain’s facial hair is quite thick. She says: “It didn’t work – the hair grows up my cheeks as well. It was like trying to fell a tree in a forest.”

After continued problems with excessive hair growth in addition to finding herself unable to conceive, Siobhain finally decided to seek medical help and get some answers as to why she was experiencing these symptoms. In 2000 she was formally diagnosed with PCOS, which also causes irregular periods, weight gain, acne and hair loss from the head.

Polycystic ovaries are comprised of many harmless cysts, around 8mm each in size at the very most. Only half these numbers of cysts are found in regular ovaries. Both the follicular cysts and the eggs inside them are underdeveloped and in most cases of PCOS, ovulation cannot occur due to the follicles being incapable of emitting eggs.

The condition affects millions of women in the UK and its exact cause is still unknown but is believed to run in families, with history of high cholesterol and diabetes being contributors. So what are the options to women like Siobhain who cannot afford expensive laser hair removal treatment and will not receive this through the NHS?

Well, there are many inexpensive treatments to help with hirsutism, such as contraceptive pills like Dianette or Yasmin, as well as non-hormonal therapy in Spironolactone.

The combined oral contraceptive pill Yasmin, suppress androgens (male sex hormones) through the drospirenone inside the tablets. Yasmin has also been shown to maintain or even lose weight and just like Dianette, is incredibly effective at combating skin problems such as acne. Dianette and Spironolactone are also anti-androgens. Dianette contains a special hormone called ‘cyproterone acetate’ and is often prescribed to help regulate periods, reduce hair growth, reduce acne and is an excellent contraceptive. Unlike Dianette, Spironolactone is a non-hormonal treatment and thus does not work as a contraceptive method. However, Spironolactone has been used for over 20 years as an anti-androgen in the treatment of acne and hirsutism, being the most widely prescribed medication for these problems in the USA.

If you are still confused as to which treatment is most suitable for you, why not visit the ‘Women’s Health’ section on the Medical Specialists Pharmacy website. Here you can find out plenty of information about these medications and many more.

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