Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Hypertrichosis?
This medical disorder means that a person has hair growth that is excess. They can have a generalized or localized form of this medical condition. If they have the generalized form this means that their entire body will have more hair than normal and if it the localized form there will be just one area of their body that is unusually hairy. These two types are also broken down into two sub-categories which are acquired which mean that it develops over time and congenital which means it was present from birth.
Another name for this medical condition is werewolf syndrome. Usually when a person has hypertrichosis it mainly affects their face, upper body, and limbs with the hair in these areas being unusually thick.
Most cases are mild but there are some severe cases, which are rare to see. There have been documented cases as far back as the Middle Ages. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or race. When a person has hypertrichosis there are three types of hair involved, which are:
- Lanugos hair – this is the light silky colored hairs that grow on embryos and starts to shed when a woman is seven months pregnant up to a few months after birth.
- Vellus hairs – these are the short hairs that are non-pigmented which after the baby is born will replace the lanugos hairs on their body everywhere except their eyebrows and scalp.
- Terminal hairs – these hairs are thicker, coarser, and are usually pigmented. The hair follicles cover the eyebrows and scalp. When they go through puberty the hair will start to grow in the underarm and groin area.
When a person has localized hypertrichosis it will usually involve the conversion the vellus hairs into terminal hairs and if they have generalized hypertrichosis it can involve all three types of hairs.
The most common symptom of course is the abnormal hair growth. There are some with this medical disorder who have gums that are enlarged and teeth defects.
Hypertrichosis is considered an androgen excess disorder in which androgen hair is the hair follicles that respond to androgens. This will allow for the heaviness of the hairs and rate of growth to increase. There are many other different reasons, or causes, for a person to have this medical disorder. Some of them are:
- Generalized acquired hypertrichosis can be caused by drug intake of such medication as cyclosporine, minoxidil, or phenytoin. If you are taking phenytoin you may see hypertrichosis three months or longer after you start the medication and affects women more than men. It is also more prominent on limbs and less on the trunk or face. If you are taking cyclosporine you may see this medical disorder six months after starting the medication with thick pigmented hairs appearing on your limbs, face, and trunk. If you are taking oral or topical minoxidil you may see it after being on the medication for just a few weeks with the extremities and face being affected. After stopping these medications you will see the hair growth disappearing within twelve months.
- Generalized acquired hypertrichosis can also be caused by underlying abnormalities such as being exposed to chemicals like hexachlorobenzene.
- Hypertrichosis could also be the result of having a head injury
- Anorexia and malnutrition can cause excessive hair growth on the trunk and limbs of some people.
- Some children who have celiac disease may develop this medical disorder
- Women on a diet where they are omitting carbohydrates for a long period of time.
- Having the AIDS infection could cause localized hypertrichosis in some people.
- When a person has cancer it seems that they develop hypertrichosis and is thought to be one of the major causes. After the area where a person has the cancer is removed the hair growth becomes normal again.
- It can also be a genetic condition and passed on to the next generation.
Having this excessive hair growth condition does not pose any risk to anyone so no treatment is necessary but many seek treatment for cosmetic reasons because they feel this excessive hair is undesirable socially. Women especially want to get rid of this excessive hair because people tend to stare at them. If you want to get rid of this excessive hair you can use depilatories to get rid of the hair or shave it off but it will grow back.
If you want to permanently want to get rid of the excessive hair you can have it removed with lasers or other hair removal treatments. Unfortunately these permanent hair removal treatments can be expensive and some can even be painful but once you finish the sessions the hair will be gone for good and it will not come back. One permanent way to get rid of this excessive hair growth is to use electrolysis which can range from twenty-five to one hundred fifty dollars a treatment.
- In day’s past when there were carnivals and fairs with side show attractions you would most likely see a sign inviting you inside to see the “wolf boy” or “the bearded lady” but at that time they did not know what it was or what caused it. To them this excessive hair made them a freak and made the carnival owner money from their oddity.
- Statistics show that you have a one in a billion chance of having hypertrichosis.
- Today there are only nineteen people alive who have this medical condition.
- In Mexico there was a man who was affected with hypertrichosis and he passed the disorder to his daughters but not to his sons making researchers think it is an X-dominant inheritance.
- A schoolgirl by the name of Supatra Sasuphan holds the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Hairiest Girl” Her condition is so rare that since the Middle Ages there have only been fifty cases documented. Supatra has thick hair growing all over her back, ears, arms, legs, and face. She has had laser treatment but it did not stop the hair from growing back.