DEAR ABBY: Your response to the grandparent who was concerned because her 13-year-old granddaughter had a mustache was incomplete. You focused only on the cosmetic problem when she may have a true medical problem. She should be evaluated by her primary-care physician to rule out a medical basis for her excess body hair.
For example, she may have polycystic ovaries syndrome, which is associated with hirsutism (excess body hair), obesity, menstrual irregularities and enlarged ovaries. It may later reveal itself as a cause of infertility, adrenal or ovarian tumors. Also, certain medications could cause excess body hair.
Most cases of hirsutism are benign, and a complete history and physical by a physician can provide the much needed reassurance that a teen-ager is normal. The visit also gives pediatricians (or family practitioners) an opportunity to touch base with a population notorious for avoiding doctors -- adolescents. Not only are they underimmunized, they are also the group most in need of anticipatory guidance on issues such as abstinence, safe sex, birth control, STDs, drugs, alcohol, smoking, guns, nutrition, school performance, sports and safe driving.
Thank you, Abby, for championing these issues with such candor in your column. -- JENNIFER FORDAN-HERMAN, M.D., VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.
DEAR DR. FORDAN-HERMAN: Several doctors wrote to point out that the girl's problem could be medical in nature rather than cosmetic, and that she should be evaluated by a physician. Having once been a furry teen-ager myself, I assumed that she could deal with the problem cosmetically -- shaving, waxing, bleaching, etc.
I would like to address the other issue you mentioned. Adolescents may be notorious for neglecting their health, but they are still minors. It is their parents' job to make sure the health and well-being of their children are protected. This includes ensuring annual checkups with the eye doctor, dentist and primary-care physician. It also includes ensuring that teen-agers understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise. There is no excuse for young adults to be underimmunized and without the information they need in order to remain healthy.