Making a Bearded Lady

For the most part, our adrenal glands hum along doing their job without a care in the world, but when things go wrong, these little glands can cause some pretty crazy problems. One, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, is what causes people to be born as mixed gender hermaphrodites, neither male nor female. The condition recently made headlines when a female runner was accused of not really being female at all and was forced to take a gender test. She was allowed to keep her gold medals, but tests revealed that she has no uterus or ovaries and her body has more testosterone, possibly the result of overactive adrenal glands. The adrenal glands can cause another awkward problem -- hirsutism, that is, excessive hairiness. The condition expresses itself as male hair growth (think bearded ladies, or worse, lady back hair) in women. It's cause by excessive androgens, or male hormones, mostly testosterone.

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1 comment

  • C

    I unfortunately find this piece to be misinforming. The condition Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia does NOT, infact, cause one to become sexless. It DOES infact, cause virilising symptoms in 46XX FEMALES who are usually perfectly capable of reproducing after puberty. It can be a life threatening condition, as it causes the body to loose vital salts and fluids. The condidtion in both males and females can cause varrying degrees of PSEUDO hermaphroditism. True hermaphrodites, science is learning, is more likely a result of parasitic twins and other genetic mutations during gestation.

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