Hypertrichosis is a condition in which abnormal amounts of hair grow all over the body. It is also often informally referred to as werewolf syndrome because it is said that the hair growth can cause a werewolf like appearance. There are two different types of hypertrichosis including generalized and localized. While localized hypertrichosis is restricted to a certain area of the body, generalized hypertrichosis occurs over the whole body. Hypertrichosis can be congenital, meaning it is present at birth, or the onset can come later in life.
Hypertrichosis is primarily characterized by excessive hair. Those that suffer from the condition generally have longer hair than expected, and depending on the type of hypertrichosis, hair will grow in patterns or over the entire body. Diagnosis of hypertrichosis is determined by the occurrence of hair on the body, in excess of what is expected for a person's sex, age, and ethnicity. The excess hair can be any type and will be excessive in either density, length, or both. Congenital hypertrichosis is extremely rare and is caused by genetic mutations unlike acquired forms of the syndrome. When hypertrichosis is congenital, it is always present at birth.
While there is no cure for congenital hypertrichosis, the acquired version is normally treated by addressing the underlying cause. When hypertrichosis is acquired, there can be several different sources and once the source is identified, it can be treated, and in turn the hypertrichosis will be treated. Sources of the acquired form of hypertrichosis can include medication that has undesired side effects, among others. Whether congenital or acquired, all hypertrichosis can be controlled with hair removal, of which there are two main subdivisions including temporary and permanent. Treatment does hold the risk of causing adverse side effects such as hypersensitivity, scarring, or dermatitis.
Temporary hair removal treatments are generally purely cosmetic and only last from several hours to a few weeks, depending on the hair removal method. Temporary removal options include both depilation methods and epilation methods. Depilation methods include shaving and trimming, which removes hair only to the level of the skin, with results lasting from a few hours to a few days. Epilation methods include waxing, electrology, plucking, threading, and sugaring, and these methods remove the whole hair from the root, leading to results that can last a few days to a few weeks.
There are also several different types of permanent hair removal methods. These include the use of different types of energy, chemicals, or a combination of both. Laser hair removal is a permanent removal process; However, it is only effective on hairs with color and does not treat white hair. Electrolysis uses an electrical current, or localized heat to remove hair, and can remove all colors of hair including white. In addition to energy based methods, there are several medications that are being tested with the hopes of reducing and suppressing hair production and growth.
Hypertrichosis in Society & History
Throughout history, people suffering from hypertrichosis have found jobs as barbers, circus performers, or other such occupations that help them make the best of their appearance. Several famous performers throughout history suffered from the condition including Stephan Bibrowski, Fedor Jeftichew, and Julia Pastrana. Those with hypertrichosis often carry an emotional burden and can suffer from embarrassment based on their appearance, leading them to seek out hair removal treatments. Others choose to attempt no treatment for the condition, stating that it defines who they are. The first known case of hypertrichosis was that of Petrus Gonsalvus who lived in the Canary Islands in the late fifteenth century. It was noted that multiple family members were actually inflicted with hypertrichosis. Throughout the years, more cases were identified, leading to further research into the causes and possible treatments of hypertrichosis.
To learn more about hypertrichosis, including causes, treatments, diagnosis, and other important information, visit the following pages.
- Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa
- An Overview of Hypertrichosis
- The Causes and Management of Hypertrichosis
- Primary Generalized and Localized Hypertrichosis in Children
- URMC Research Network - Hypertrichosis
- UCSF Profiles - Hypertrichosis Information
- Hypertrichosis Clinical Characteristics
- Hair Disorders and Abnormalities
- Inherited Hypertrichosis Study
- Glaucoma and Hypertrichosis Information
- Health Talk - Werewolf Syndrome