DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 33-year-old, unmarried woman with an embarrassing problem – a mustache. I have to shave every other day. I told a friend, and she says shaving makes it worse: It will grow back faster and thicker. Is there a solution other than shaving? – F.L.

Your problem isn’t as unusual as you might think. The most common cause for the appearance in women of thick, coarse, dark hair in places where such growth is a male trait is overproduction of male hormone. Women make male hormones, and men make female hormones. Excessive male-hormone production in females causes hair growth above the upper lip and sometimes on the chin, chest, upper thighs, abdomen and back.

You should have this confirmed – it can be done with a physical examination and a few lab tests.

Other signs of excess male hormone include irregular or absent periods, acne, voice deepening and infertility.

The most common reason for such an immoderate production is polycystic ovary syndrome. Polycystic ovary syndrome also features such symptoms as large ovaries, menstrual abnormalities, higher-than-normal blood sugar and often obesity. Other conditions like adrenal gland or ovary tumors also can lead to an oversupply of male hormones.

These conditions are treatable. Each has its own distinctive treatments. Focusing only on the mustache problem, electrolysis is one solution. Small needles deliver electric current directly to the hair follicles and destroy them. Laser therapy also is available. Vaniqa cream reduces such hair growth. Shaving doesn’t make the hair grow faster or thicker.

I know it’s the mustache that presents the greatest problem in your mind, but the real problem is finding and correcting the source of male hormone overproduction.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My left testicle has been a good deal larger than my right one for a number of years. I wondered if this might be cancer, so I saw my doctor. He said it was a varicocele and nothing needs to be done. What exactly is this? Does it affect potency? I am 67. – R.R.

A varicocele is a conglomeration of dilated veins within the scrotum. Somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent of males who have undergone puberty have a varicocele.

It might cause a dull ache. Very large ones can cause deterioration of the testicle. Varicoceles might be involved in infertility. They do not cause cancer. When a man has no symptoms and no signs of disturbance, then a varicocele can be ignored.

Tying off the main testicle vein to the varicocele is the usual treatment – when necessary.

A varicocele doesn’t affect potency.

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