This unusual and intriguing disorder, known as hypertrichosis. Causes an abnormally large amount of hair to grow on any part of a person’s body. The condition known as hypertrichosis is also occasionally referred to as the werewolf syndrome. In severe situations, the condition causes the entire body to be covered in thick hair. And it can manifest in almost any portion of the body.
It is possible for a person to be born with hypertrichosis, which is referred to as the congenital version of the disorder. However, a person can also develop hypertrichosis later in life. As a consequence of another medical condition (acquired form). The condition known as hypertrichosis is sometimes confused with hirsutism. Hirsutism is a disorder that affects a greater number of women and causes them to develop thick hair in parts of their body where men generally do. Such as on their chins.
Additionally, there are a number of subtypes of the disorder. Each of which determines how the condition manifests itself and the treatment choices that are accessible. Even while the cause could be hard to pin down, advances in cosmetic technology. Most notably hair removal, have made it possible to cure even the most severe cases of the disorder.
Causes of hypertrichosis
There have been a number of studies looking into the possibility that hypertrichosis has a genetic root cause. Nevertheless, researchers still aren’t quite clear on why and how the various varieties of hypertrichosis originate. In 2011, a group of researchers discovered the specific gene that is responsible for controlling hair growth during the period of fetal development.
Given that certain cases have been found within families. It is plausible that genes have a role in the condition. When persons develop an acquired form of hypertrichosis later in life. The reason can typically be pinpointed with considerably more accuracy. For instance, if a person with anorexia nervosa loses a significant amount of weight and becomes dangerously underweight. The body may frequently adapt to the lack of insulating body fat by producing a fine layer of lanugo in order to keep warm.
It is known that a number of health disorders have the potential to induce aberrant hair growth. There are a number of medical problems that may result in abnormal hair growth. including:
Conditions that can lead to hypertrichosis
- The lichen simplex
- Hypothyroidism in children
- Syndrome POEMS
- Late-onset porphyria
- Cancer (most often lung, colon, and breast)
- A change in the blood flow or more skin friction over specific body sections (such as from wearing a cast if you break your arm).
However, acquired hypertrichosis, which develops later in life. Might have a variety of causes. Among the causes are:
- inadequate diet or eating wrongly
- some treatments and pharmaceuticals, such as hair growth agents, immunosuppressants, and androgenic steroids
- tumors and cell mutations
- skin-related autoimmune and infectious illnesses
In some cases, the development of hypertrichosis can be brought on by a condition known as porphyria cutanea tarda. This condition makes the skin very sensitive to the effects of UV light.
If hypertrichosis is only present in certain areas of the body. It may be the result of a persistent skin condition such as lichen simplex. This condition is characterized by recurrent rashes, itching, and scratching on a single area of skin. This disease can also be brought on by an increase in the vascularity (blood supply) of a particular region of the body. It is possible for someone to develop signs of hypertrichosis in the region where they wore a plaster cast.
Types of Hypertrichosis
There are numerous forms of hypertrichosis, which are classified according to how and when the problem develops. Examples includes:
- Congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa
The tiny lanugo hairs develop as expected in a pregnancy but do not disappear after birth. Instead, throughout the person’s life, the hairs continue to grow excessively in several different places on the body.
- Congenital hypertrichosis terminalis
The infant may be born with terminal hair instead of lanugo or vellus hair, which continues to develop throughout their lifetime. The affected person’s hair is usually thick and fully pigmented all over their body, including their face.
- Acquired hypertrichosis
The condition known as acquired hypertrichosis manifests itself much later in life. It exhibits a significant number of the same characteristics as congenital hypertrichosis. Lanugo, vellus, or terminal hair may be present, and hair may grow in discrete areas or all over the body. Hair may cover the entire body.
- Naevoid hypertrichosis
An abnormally high density of hair observed on one or more areas of the skin. A strong and bushy monobrow, often called a unibrow, is a good example of this type of brow.
Symptoms of Hypertrichosis
The appearance of more hair than is typical for a person’s age, race, and sex is the main sign of hypertrichosis. Hair may also show up in unexpected places. The type of hair that hypertrichosis produces varies. Three forms of hair can develop as a result of hypertrichosis:
- Lanugo is a layer of soft, fine, light-colored hair that covers a fetus in the uterus. All infants are born with lanugo, and some medical problems can cause it to develop in adulthood. It is less noticeable than other types of hair growth.
- Vellus hair is often light blonde in color and very fine in texture. It is the precursor to the thick, dark terminal hair that grows on children’s cheeks, arms, and legs before the thick terminal hair grows in.
- Terminal hair growth is the type that develops on your head, and it is distinguished from the other types by its denser, longer, and darker appearance. At puberty, an increase in the hormone androgen causes vellus hair to convert into terminal hair. The terminal stage of hair growth is the most obvious of the three stages of hair growth. In many cases, women who suffer from hirsutism will produce terminal hair on areas such as their face, back, arms, and chest.
Certain medical conditions can also result in hypertrichosis, including:
- Acquired hypertrichosis: Depending on what causes it, this type can be mild or as bad as congenital types. A person with acquired hypertrichosis can have either vellus hair growth or terminal hair growth.
- Hirsutism: This abnormal hair development happens when a woman develops the thickness and growth patterns of hair that are more common in men, such as facial hair. Partially or completely covering a part of the body, usually the upper lip (in the form of a mustache), the chest, or the back, with thick, dark hair is a hallmark of this disorder.
Hypertrichosis is relatively uncommon. Based on the known cases, it seems to affect both biological sexes in the same way (with the exception of hirsutism which only occurs in females). It’s easy to tell if someone has congenital hypertrichosis if they have unusual hair growth patterns that started when they were young and are noticeable.
This is especially true if other people in the family have had similar symptoms. In less severe cases, doctors can look at hair samples under a microscope to see if the hair is growing too fast and in a strange way, which is typical of hypertrichosis. When acquired hypertrichosis happens later in life, it may take longer to figure out what caused it and the best way to treat it. Blood tests can help find abnormal levels of testosterone or other hormones.
If a doctor finds something wrong with your health, like a thyroid problem or cancer, he or she may want to do imaging tests, like an ultrasound. Ultrasounds of the pelvis and vagina can help find signs of PCOS, which is a common cause of hirsutism. If doctors think that hypertrichosis is caused by a genetic disorder like Cornelia de Lange syndrome or Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, they may need to do genetic tests to look for specific mutations that help them make a diagnosis.
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Hypertrichosis cannot be cured, however doctors can choose a course of treatment based on whether it is congenital or acquired. The first line of treatment is addressing the underlying medical illness if abnormal hair growth is caused by another condition, such as PCOS or thyroid disorders.
If a drug is to blame for hypertrichosis, lowering the dose or quitting the drug may be sufficient to stop the hair growth. A person may also be given medicine to stop or sluggish down hair growth. Depilatory creams are a class of topical drugs that can potentially be prescribed. Hormonal treatments may be successful for those with hirsutism.
Some individuals may be able to lower their risk of developing specific forms of acquired hypertrichosis by staying away from:
- Androgen-related drugs
- medication to increase hair growth
Congenital hypertrichosis does not have a known treatment option. By shaving off the hair from the affected area, the symptoms can be managed. Hair removal techniques that are temporary include:
While these short-term fixes can lessen the amount of hair in the area, the problem will still cause the hair to regrow. These techniques might irritate the skin and result in rashes or ingrown hairs. Additionally, it can be challenging to apply some of these treatments in certain body parts.
Coping with Hypertrichosis
As a result of their condition, people with hypertrichosis may experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a negative body image. They may have undergone years of peer bullying if they have a form that dates back to their early years. As a result, those who do not have hypertrichosis may make those who do feel uncomfortable and alone (even friends and family).
The social life of a person may suffer from hypertrichosis. Children with the illness, more so than adults, may avoid activities like swimming or changing in the school gym out of concern for their appearance. Due to their anxiety, these kids might miss out on fun occasions with their friends at school and in the neighborhood, like birthday celebrations and team sports.
Teenagers with hypertrichosis may be more prone to low self-esteem, poor body image, and depression because they are already dealing with the hormonal and social changes that come with adolescence. Resources for medical, social, and emotional health might be helpful for families and children with hypertrichosis.
People with any form of hypertrichosis who find living with the condition distressing may find support groups, therapy, and antidepressants to be very helpful. However, children and young adults may find it especially helpful to learn coping mechanisms that they can use throughout their lives.
Hypertrichosis, depending on the form it takes, may be indicative of a more serious medical issue. Anyone with a family history of hypertrichosis may benefit from consulting a medical professional to rule out a genetic component to the problem. The only required and accessible treatment for hypertrichosis is the management of symptoms or treatment of the underlying cause.