Q: I am a woman and have hair around my nipples. Is this normal and would there be a problem if I removed it?

A: Some females do have hair around their nipples. In some cases this is "normal," and in others it may signal an underlying medical condition.

Excess body hair in females is known medically as hirsutism. It most commonly will produce thick, coarse body hair on the chin, upper lip, chest (including around the nipples and between the breasts), and on the shoulders and lower abdomen.

Causes of this condition vary. Some women have skin that is hypersensitive to the circulating testosterone in their bodies. We think of testosterone as the male hormone, but all women have a small amount of it, too. Females with this extra sensitivity will notice hair growth beginning at puberty and continuing until menopause.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is an endocrine disorder caused by an irregularity in the chemical signals the body sends to the adrenal glands. This causes cysts on the ovaries and irregular periods. It also produces hirsutism and acne. Women with this condition also often have difficulty getting pregnant.

Certain medications can cause excess body hair. Certain rare tumors should also be considered as a potential cause.

Anyone with excess body hair should be examined by a doctor to make sure that there is not a medical condition causing the growth. Assuming that there is nothing medically causing the hair around your nipples, there should not be a problem if you wanted to try to remove it. - Samantha Plasner, D.O.

Samantha Plasner is a family practitioner at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County.