Cushing’s and Hairy Nipples

Hairy nipples are a common condition in women. The amount of hair on the nipples varies, but some women find that the hair becomes long, coarse, and dark, which can be distressing.

Hairy nipples are rarely a cause for concern and are usually not a sign of any underlying health issues. However, occasionally they can signify something more serious, in which case, it is essential to consult a doctor.

Almost every part of a person’s skin is covered in hair and hair follicles. On certain parts of the body, such as the top of the head, the hair usually grows longer and thicker, while on other parts, it is thin and transparent.

Fast facts on hairy nipples:

  • It is not known how common hairy nipples are or how many women have them.
  • Many women do not report the condition and instead manage it themselves.
  • It is possible for hair that used to be fine and light to turn coarse and dark with age.

Causes of hairy nipples in women

There are several underlying reasons that might cause nipple hairs to grow. These are:

Cushing’s syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is another condition caused by hormonal imbalance. When it occurs, there is an excess of cortisol in the body. In this case, a person may experience several symptoms, such as:

  • increased hair growth
  • abnormal menstrual periods
  • high blood pressure
  • a buildup of fat on the chest and tummy, while arms and legs remain slim
  • a buildup of fat on the back of the neck and shoulders
  • a rounded and red, puffy face
  • bruising easily
  • big purple stretch marks
  • weakness in the upper arms and thighs
  • low libido
  • problems with fertility
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • high blood glucose level

Cushing’s syndrome is fairly rare, and the cause is usually associated with taking glucocorticosteroid medicine, rather than the body overproducing the hormone on its own.

It is possible, however, that a tumor in the lung, pituitary gland, or adrenal gland is the cause.


Hormonal changes and fluctuations

Hormonal changes in women can cause many different symptoms, one of which is changes in nipple hair growth and color.

Some common hormonal changes happen during pregnancy and menopause.

However, hormonal changes can also occur when a woman is in her 20s and 30s, which may cause nipple hair to change appearance or become noticeable for the first time.

Overproduction of male hormones

It is possible for hormonal imbalances to cause hairy nipples. Overproduction of male hormones, including testosterone, can cause hair growth, while other symptoms include:

  • oily skin that can lead to breakouts and acne
  • menstrual periods stopping
  • increase in skeletal muscle mass
  • male pattern baldness, leading to a woman losing hair on her head

If overproduction of male hormones is suspected, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor who can confirm this with a simple test.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs because of a hormonal imbalance. PCOS is a condition that affects the way the ovaries work.

Common symptoms of PCOS are:

  • infertility
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • ovarian cysts
  • excessive hair growth in unusual places, such as the nipples

PCOS is believed to affect around 1 in 5 women.


The side effects of particular medicines can cause unusual hair growth.

Medicines, such as testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, and certain other immunotherapy drugs may cause hairy nipples.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for hairy nipples is not usually necessary for health reasons.

However, many women with the condition prefer to try and reduce or get rid of the appearance of hair on their nipples for cosmetic purposes.

There are several methods by which they can try and do this:

Trimming the nipple hair

Trimming the nipple hair may be enough to reduce its appearance. Small nail scissors are ideal, and hair can be cut close to the skin. It is essential to do this carefully and avoid catching the skin.

Trimming will need to be carried out regularly when the hair grows back.

Tweezing the nipple hair

Tweezing nipple hair is an effective way to get rid of unwanted nipple hair. However, this option can be painful as the skin around the nipple area is particularly soft and sensitive.

It is also important to bear in mind that the hair will return, and tweezing the hair increases the risk of infection and ingrown hairs.

Shaving the nipple hair

Shaving is another option to reduce the appearance of nipple hair. However, it is advisable to do so with caution to avoid nicking the sensitive skin.

This option also carries an increased risk of developing ingrown hairs and infection.


Sugaring or waxing is a good hair removal option, though either one is likely to be painful. A salon is the best place to get this treatment type, as doing this at home may cause damage to the skin. Infection and ingrown hairs are again a risk.

Laser hair removal

These popular treatments can help to reduce the hair growth and slow or even prevent regrowth for a while. However, they can be painful, too.

Laser treatment is by far the most expensive option, as it will need to be performed by a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist.

Hormonal treatment

If a hormonal imbalance is the cause of hairy nipples, a doctor may prescribe or adjust a woman’s medication therapy to restore a healthy hormonal balance.

Other treatments and how to choose

The above treatments are all commonly used to remove and reduce nipple hair and usually have minimal side effects.

Bleaching or using hair removal cream to treat the condition, however, is not advised as these methods are usually too harsh for this sensitive area and may cause irritation and damage.

At what point should you see a doctor?

Hairy nipples in women are quite common, and there is usually no need to see a doctor. However, if they are accompanied by any other unusual symptoms, it is a good idea to make an appointment.

A doctor will be able to perform tests to determine whether an underlying cause, such as PCOS, is causing the growth of nipple hair. If so, they will give advice and medication therapy to help manage the condition.

A doctor will also be able to advise how to remove nipple hair safely.


For the majority of women, nipple hair may seem unsightly, but it is not a cause for any concerns about their health.

However, because some medical conditions can cause nipple hair to darken and grow, it is important to see a doctor if any other symptoms are experienced.

Nipple hair can usually be easily treated and managed, should a woman choose to try to remove the hair for cosmetic reasons.

Adapted from


Pituitary Issues: Irregular Periods

Q: I am 28 years old and I have not yet started my periods naturally. I have to take medicine for periods — Novelon. The doctors say that there is some problem with my hormones in the pituitary gland. Please advise me how to get normal and natural periods, because after taking the medicine I get my period, but without medicines I don’t.

A by Dr Sharmaine Mitchell: The problem you have with your menstrual period being irregular is most likely due to overproduction of the hormone prolactin by the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland can sometimes enlarge and cause an overproduction of prolactin and this can result in inappropriate milk production in the breasts (white nipple discharge), irregular menstruation or absent menstrual periods, headaches and blurred vision. The blurred vision occurs as a result of compression of the optic nerve which supplies the eyes, by the enlarged brain tumour in the pituitary gland.

You should get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CT scan of the brain and pituitary gland done. You should also test your prolactin levels to determine the extent of overproduction of the hormone.

Other investigations should include a thyroid function test (TSH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and leutinizing hormone (LH), and baseline testosterone level tests.

Abnormalities in the production of thyroid hormones can also cause menstrual irregularities and this should be ruled out.

Polycystic ovarian disease can also cause irregular menstrual periods and checking the level of FSH, LH and testosterone will help to rule out this diagnosis. This condition is usually associated with excessive weight gain, abnormal male pattern distribution on the face, chest and abdomen and an increased risk for diabetes mellitus. A pelvic ultrasound to look at the structure of the ovaries and to rule out polycystic ovaries is essential.

If the pituitary gland is enlarged, then medication can be prescribed to shrink it. Bromocriptine or Norprolac are commonly used drugs which work well in reducing the prolactin levels and establishing regular menstrual cycles. The use of these drugs will also help to establish ovulation and improve your fertility.

In some cases it may become necessary to have surgery done if the tumour in the pituitary gland is large and does not respond to the usual medications prescribed to shrink the pituitary gland. The MRI of the brain and pituitary gland will give an idea as to the size of the gland and help to determine if there is a need for you to see the neurosurgeon.

In most cases medical management with drugs will work well and there is no need for surgical intervention. This is a problem that can recur, so it may be necessary to take treatment intermittently for a long period of time, especially if fertility is desired.

Consult your doctor who will advise you further. Best wishes.

Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.


Pituitary Dysfunction as a Result of Traumatic Brain Injury

A victim of brain injury can experience many consequences and complications as a result of brain damage. Unfortunately, the problems caused by a traumatic brain injury can extend even beyond what most people think of as the standard symptoms of a brain injury, like mood change and cognitive impairment. One issue which can occur is pituitary dysfunction. If the pituitary gland is damaged due to injury to the brain, the consequences can be dramatic as the pituitary gland works together with the hypothalamus to control every hormonal aspect of a person’s body.

Pituitary dysfunction as a result of a brain injury can be difficult to diagnose, as you may not immediately connect your symptoms to the head injury you experienced. If you did suffer injury to the pituitary gland, you need to know about it so you can get proper treatment. If someone else caused your brain injury to occur, you also want to know about your pituitary dysfunction so you can receive compensation for costs and losses associated with this serious health problem.

The pituitary is a small area of the center of your brain that is about the size of the uvula. The pituitary is surrounded and guarded by bone, but it does hang down.  When it becomes damaged as a result of a brain injury, the damage normally occurs as a result of the fact the pituitary was affected by reduced by reduced blood flow. It can also be harmed directly from the trauma, and only a tiny amount of damage can cause profound consequences.

Many of the important hormones that your body needs are controlled by the pituitary working with the hypothalamus. If the pituitary is damaged, the result can include a deficiency of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This deficiency can affect your heart and can impact bone development.  Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can also be affected, which could result in hypothyroidism. Sex hormones (gonodotropin); Adrenocorticotopic hormone; and many other hormones could be impacted as well, causing fertility problems; muscle loss; sexual dysfunction; kidney problems; fatigue; or even death.

Unfortunately, problems with the pituitary gland may not always be visible on MRIs or other imaging tests because the pituitary is so small. Endocrinologists who handle hormone therapy frequently are not familiar with brain injuries, and may not make the connection that your brain injury was the cause of the problem.

If you begin to experience hormonal issues following an accident, you should be certain to get an accurate diagnosis to determine if your brain injury played a role. If it did, those responsible for causing the accident could be responsible for compensating you for the harm you have experienced to your pituitary and to the body systems which malfunction as a result of your new hormonal issues.

Nelson Blair Langer Engle, PLLC


Day 14, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

Way back when we first got married, my husband thought we might have a big family with a lot of kids.  He was from a family of 6 siblings, so that’s what he was accustomed to.  I am an only child so I wasn’t sure about having so many.

I needn’t have worried.

In January, 1974 I had a miscarriage.  I was devastated. My father revealed that my mother had also had a miscarriage.  I had no idea.

At some point after this I tried fertility drugs.  Clomid and another drug.  One or both drugs made me very angry/depressed/bitchy (one dwarf I left off the image)  Little did I know that these meds were a waste of time.

Eventually,  I did get pregnant and our wonderful son, Michael was born.  It wasn’t until he was seven that I was finally, actually diagnosed with Cushing’s.

When I had my early Cushing’s symptoms, I thought I was pregnant again but it was not to be.

I’ll never forget the fall when he was in second grade.  He was leaving for school and I said goodbye to him.  I knew I was going into NIH that day for at least 6 weeks and my future was very iffy.  The night before, I had signed my will – just in case.  He just turned and headed off with his friends…and I felt a little betrayed.

Michael wrote this paper on Cushing’s when he was in the 7th grade. From the quality of the pages, he typed this on typing paper – no computers yet!

Click on each page to enlarge.

When Michael started having headache issues in middle school, I had him tested for Cushing’s.  I had no idea yet if it could be familial but I wasn’t taking any chances.  It turned out that my father had also had some unnamed endocrine issues.  Hmmm…

I survived my time and surgery at NIH and Michael grew up to be a wonderful young man, if an only child.  🙂

After I survived kidney cancer (Day Twelve, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2015) Michael and I went zip-lining – a goal of mine after surviving that surgery.  This photo was taken in a treetop restaurant in Belize.

For the mathematically inclined, this is his blog.  Xor’s Hammer.  I understand none of it.  He also has a page of Math and Music, which I also don’t understand.

I know it doesn’t fit into a Cushing’s awareness post but just because I’m a very proud mama – Michael got a PhD in math from Cornell and his thesis was Using Tree Automata to Investigate Intuitionistic Propositional Logic




If One Partner Has Cushing’s Syndrome, Can The Couple Still Get Pregnant?

Cushing’s syndrome can affect fertility in both men and women.


The high levels of cortisol in Cushing’s syndrome disrupt a woman’s ovaries. Her menstrual periods may stop completely or become irregular. As a result, women with Cushing’s syndrome almost always have difficulty becoming pregnant.5,6,7 For those who do become pregnant, the risk of miscarriage is high.5,6,7

In rare cases, usually when a woman’s Cushing’s syndrome is caused by a benign adrenal tumor, pregnancy can occur, but it brings high risk for the mother and fetus.5,6,7

After a woman is treated for Cushing’s syndrome, her ovaries often recover from the effects of too much cortisol. Her regular menstrual cycles will return, and she can become pregnant.8

In some women, regular periods do not return after they are treated for Cushing’s syndrome. This occurs if surgery removes the part of the pituitary gland involved in reproduction.4 An infertility specialist can prescribe hormone therapy to bring back regular periods, ovulation, and fertility.8


A man diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome may have a decline in sperm production and could have reduced fertility.9 He also might experience a lowered sex drive as well as impotence (pronounced IM-puh-tuhns). In addition, some medications used to treat Cushing’s syndrome can reduce fertility.10 However, fertility usually recovers after Cushing’s syndrome is cured and treatment has stopped.9

Does Cushing’s syndrome affect pregnancy?

Cushing’s syndrome can cause serious and potentially life-threatening effects for the mother and the fetus during pregnancy.11,12 For example, Cushing’s syndrome raises a woman’s risk of developing pregnancy-related high blood pressure (called preeclampsia, pronounced pree-i-KLAMP-see-uh, or eclampsia) and/or pregnancy diabetes, which also is called gestational (pronounced je-STEY-shuhn-ul) diabetes). Infection and slow healing of any wounds are more likely, as is heart failure. When the syndrome is caused by a tumor, it will be surgically removed as early as possible to reduce any threat.13

  1. Margulies, P. (n.d.). Adrenal diseases—Cushing’s syndrome: The facts you need to know. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from National Adrenal Diseases Foundation website External Web Site Policy
  2. Nieman, L. K., & Ilias, I. (2005). Evaluation and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. Journal of American Medicine, 118(12), 1340-1346. PMID 16378774.
  3. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Fact sheet on pituitary tumors. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from (PDF – 171 KB). External Web Site Policy
  4. Biddie, S. C., Conway-Campbell, B. L, & Lightman, S. L. (2012). Dynamic regulation of glucocorticoid signalling in health and disease. Rheumatology, 51(3), 4034-4112. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from PMID: 3281495.
  5. Abraham, M. R., & Smith, C. V. (n.d.). Adrenal disease and pregnancy.Retrieved April 8, 2012, from – aw2aab6b6. External Web Site Policy
  6. Pickard, J., Jochen, A. L., Sadur, C. N., & Hofeldt, F. D. (1990). Cushing’s syndrome in pregnancy. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 45(2), 87-93.PMID 2405312.
  7. Lindsay, J. R., Jonklaas, J., Oldfield, E. H., & Nieman, L. K. (2005). Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy: Personal experience and review of the literature. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 90(5), 3077.PMID 15705919.
  8. Klibansky, A. (n.d.). Pregnancy after cure of Cushing’s disease. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from External Web Site Policy
  9. Jequier, A.M. Endocrine infertility. In Male infertility: A clinical guide (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press, 2011: chap 20, pages 187-188. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from External Web Site Policy
  10. Stewart, P. M., & Krone, N. P. (2011). The adrenal cortex. In Kronenberg, H. M., Shlomo, M., Polonsky, K. S., Larsen P. R. (Eds.). Williams textbook of endocrinology (12th ed.). (chap. 15). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier.
  11. Abraham, M. R., & Smith, C. V. Adrenal disease and pregnancy. Retrieved April 8, 2012, from – aw2aab6b6. External Web Site Policy
  12. Buescher, M. A. (1996). Cushing’s syndrome in pregnancy. Endocrinologist, 6, 357-361.
  13. Ezzat, S., Asa, S. L., Couldwell, W. T., Barr, C. E., Dodge, W. E., Vance M. L., et al. (2004). The prevalence of pituitary adenomas: A systematic review.Cancer, 101(3), 613-619. PMID 15274075.


%d bloggers like this: