Hypertrichosis – A Gene Mutation

Have you seen a man or a woman that is fully covered by hair all over the body? I am not talking about a myth here because this type of disease or disorder is very real and is called hypertrichosis.

You probably seen it on TV – girls, boys, young and old covered with hair all over their face or body are not fictions, it is all real-life cases. There are many theories regarding hypertrichosis and one of the most significant cause is genetic mutation.

Read this post to learn more about this overwhelming hair growth disorder.



Hypertrichosis – An Overview

Hypertrichosis is an abnormal hair growth over the body which is likened to a werewolf-like appearance. The first case of hypertrichosis was recorded way back in 1642 in the name of Petrus Gonsalvus of the Canary Islands.

Also called as ambras syndrome or werewolf syndrome, this disorder has two distinct types – generalized hypertrichosis and localized hypertrichosis.

Generalized hypertrichosis is characterized by hair growth over the entire body, but is generally a rare type. While localized hypertrichosis is limited or restricted to a certain area, such as the face, but is the most common.

This disease can either be congenital (present since birth) or acquired later in life. But one thing is certain, hypertrichosis is caused by an abnormal gene mutation that affects one in 340 million people. With that ratio, an estimate of 50 people worldwide have hypertrichosis.

Since the rare and unique appearance, most people with hypertrichosis works as freaks because of having both animal and human traits.

Signs and Symptoms

There is only one sign or symptom of all forms of hypertrichosis and that is having an excessive hair growth. The hair is unusual and not normal in length, density and may consist of various hair types such as lanugo, vellus or terminal hair.

Hair growth can be in patterned form and some types is characterized by multiple hair growth in a single follicle. Some hypetrichosis can develop over the entire body while some are isolated in a specific area. To learn more about various classifications of this syndrome, read the next subtitle below.

Classifications of Hypertrichosis

There are two ways of classifying hypertrichosis, one is to divide them into either generalized against localized, and the other divides hypertrichosis into congenital against acquired.

Congenital Hypertrichosis

Congenital means it is caused by genetic mutations that are extremely rare compared to acquired hypertrichosis and is present at birth. There are six types of congenital hypertrichosis. This includes the following:

Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa

Congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa is characterized by thin lanugo hair all over the body that is noticeable at birth. We all have lanugo hair before birth then it is replaced by vellus hair. With infants with this condition, the lanugo hair remains after birth.

Generalized Hypertrichosis

Congenital generalized hypertrichosis is characterized by severe facial and upper body hair that are commonly develops in males.

Terminal Hypertrichosis

This type of congenital hypertrichosis is characterized by having a fully pigmented terminal hair that grows all over the body. This is the type of hypertrichosis that is commonly compared to a werewolf like appearance.

Circumscribed Hypertrichosis

This type of hypertrichosis is identifiable by the presence of thick vellus hair on the upper extremities. One classification of circumscribed is called “hairy elbow syndrome“, which is characterized by severe hair growth on and around the elbows.

Localized Hypertrichosis

The most simplest and easiest type to diagnose is congenital localized hypertrichosis. It is a limited or localized hair growth and length in a specific area of the body.

Nevoid Hypertrichosis

This type of hypertrichosis can either be present at birth or may develop later in life. Its features are similar with localized hypertrichosis which is an excessive hair growth in an isolated area. Nevoid hypertrichosis is not associated to any other diseases.

Acquired Hypertrichosis

This classification of hypertrichosis develops after birth and is caused by underlying diseases or outside factors such as medicinal side effects, eating disorders or cancers. Also, acquired types symptoms can significantly be reduced with different treatments.

Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa

Acquired lanuginosa is the rapid growth of lanugo hair that is commonly appears on the face. However, some cases shows some excessive hair growth on the trunk and armpits, while soles and palms are unaffected.

Generalized Hypertrichosis

Acquired generalized type affects the chick, upper lip and chin. But the most common characteristics of acquired generalized is the appearance of multiple hairs on the same follicle and some cases of abnormal hair growth.

Patterned Hair Growth

Acquired patterned hypertrichosis is characterized by a “patterned” hair growth which is similar to acquired generalized type and a sign of malignancy.

Localized Hypertrichosis

Acquired localized hypertrichosis is characterized by an increase in hair density and length, which is often the cause of irritation or trauma. This type is limited to certain areas of the body.

Hirsutism

Hirsutism is a type of hypertrichosis that can only be seen in women and children, which originates from the excess androgen-sensitive hair growth. Women with this syndrome often develops chest and back hair and exhibits adult male pattern hair growth.

Hirsutism can either be congenital or acquired or both. The increase levels of male hormones (androgen) in females are the primary cause of hirsutism but can be treated effectively through medications.

Different Diagnosis of Hypertrichosis

man with hypertrichosisAs aforementioned earlier, genetics played a big role why this type of disorder develops. Congenital lanuginosa is caused by a mutation on the 8q chromosome, but it is also believed that it is caused by a continuous genetic mutation and not by inheritance.

Congenital terminalis is believed to be caused by genetic alteration on chromosome 17 and on the MAP2k6 gene, which eliminates millions of nucleotides. Congenital generalized type is the result of chromosome x24-q27.1 changes.

Medical conditions can also cause hypertrichosis. For example, acquired hypertrichosis is commonly associated with cancer and is linked to metabolic disorders such as anorexia, hormone imbalances such as hyperthyroidism or as a side effect of various drugs.

Medications such as Minoxidil (hair loss drug) is believed to constitute to the development of acquired localized hypertrichosis. However, medication-triggered causes are often easy to manage.

Hypertrichosis Treatment and Management

Unfortunately, there is no cure for any types of congenital hypertrichosis as it is derived from genetic mutation. While acquired types can be treated by identifying the underlying cause of hair growth. Acquired causes such as medication can be eliminated which can help reduce the symptoms of hypertrichosis.

One management option can be applied effectively, hair removal. With today’s technological advances, hair removal can be done in two kinds of procedures – temporary and permanent hair removal. But either procedure may cause scarring, dermatitis or hypersensitivity.

Temporary hair removal usually last from several hours to weeks depending on the method used. Most often used are cosmetic procedures such as depilation methods (trimming and shaving), epilation methods (plucking, electrology, waxing, sugaring, threading) or products such as creams.

Read More: Hair Removal Cream by Revitol

Permanent hair removal uses chemicals, hand-held light devices, energy tools that target cells that cause hair growth and of course, laser hair removal. Laser procedure is one of the best way to remove any types of hair colors but it is not effective on white hair.

Electrolysis is another permanent hair removal procedure that mainly uses galvanic current or thermolysis (heat) or both. This procedure is effective for all known hair colors.

Lastly, medication can be used to help reduce hair growth. However, there are no specific drugs that are designed for this disease. The idea is to suppress testosterone by increasing the sex hormone-binding globulin, the one responsible for overproduction of hair.

Since the market that wants to stop hair growth is almost zero (hypertrichosis affects 1 in 340 million), formulating this type of drugs inhibits companies to start production.

Hypertrichosis Summary

Hypertrichosis is not an infectious disease but rather can be acquired at birth or through the aforementioned outside factors such as medications and diseases. You don’t have to fear this type of disease if you don’t have a family history of hypertrichosis.

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References:

Hypertrichosis – WikiPedia

Noah Mark Rodolfo

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1 Comment

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  1. There was a very interesting program on an Italian TV show about a family with hypertrichosis: a man, his six-year-old nephew and the man’s sister and daughter. The two males had much more hair than the women. What was very hilarious was that my six-year-old daughter got a ‘crush’ on the little boy with hypertrichosis. She wanted to watch him because he was ‘her boyfriend.’ The sad thing is that I can’t see my nephew getting a crush on a little girl with the same condition…

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