Hypertrichosis or human werewolf syndrome is growth of excessive hair, either all over the body or in specific areas of the body. The condition is also called ambras syndrome. The syndrome may be congenital (at the time of birth) or may surface at a later part of the life. Such excess growth of hair is different from androgenic hair in the face, pubic area or axillary regions.
The only symptom of werewolf syndrome is abnormal and excessive growth of hair all over the body or in particular spots.
Congenital hypertrichosis is very rare and it is always in acquired form that is prevalent. Acquired form is classified as generalized, patterned and localized forms.
- Acquired hypertrichosis appears after birth. The multiple causes include the side effects of drugs, associations with cancer, and possible links with eating disorders. Acquired forms can usually be reduced with various treatments. Hypertrichosis should not be confused with hirsutism in which women have abnormal hair growth normally where men have.
- Congenital hypertrichosis is attributed to the genes of the early ages of ancestors who had excessive hair growth functioning as a protector of the body and keeping it warm. Such genes gets activated in the womb itself. In these cases the hair which is normally shed by new born in a few days remain as such and further grow. However the congenital form is exceptionally rare but seen only in early ages and not reported in recent ages
Only about 50 cases have been documented all over the world so far which gives a clear indication of the non-existence of the syndrome in the present age. Hence it is only of academic interest to know that this particular disorder existed at some age in humanity. It is the acquired syndrome that is prevalent and treated.
The causes of an acquired form are different.
- Certain autoimmune diseases that affect the skin
- Mutation of the cells and or cancer formation of various types
- Consumption of medicines like androgenic steroids and immunosuppressant
- Improper diet and disorderly eating patterns
Chronic skin conditions like frequent rashes, continuous itching or scratching the patches on the skin are some other reasons for werewolf syndrome.
It is also observed that wearing of certain forms of plaster on the body can also lead to abnormal hair growth.
- While the congenital form remain permanently, the acquired form may decrease over a period of time as the person ages. Congenital form has absolutely no cure.
- Acquired syndrome caused due to medications can be reversed once such medication is stopped.
Because of the social stigma people affected by werewolf syndrome attempt to remove the unwanted hair growth adopting both short term as well as long term remedies.
The abnormality of hair growth may be in the form of excessive length or density or the three different types. There are three types of hair produced by hypertrichosis. They are vellus, lanugo and terminal hairs.
- Vellus is very short growth of pigmented or non-pigmented hair in almost all parts of the body excluding palm, lips, scar, ear backs and feet.
- Lanugo is a very soft hair formation like in the case of general new born where the soft hair falls within a few days of birth. But such fall of hair do not take place in the case of babies affected by werewolf syndrome.
- In the terminal type, the hair grows very thick and dark in color.
Short term methods
Short term methods of hair removal include, shaving, bleaching, sugaring, threading, and plucking with or without waxing and by use of chemical applications. These short term methods make hair disappear in short term but regrow with more thickness. Moreover these techniques cannot be applied on the whole of the body indiscriminately. Besides these treatments are both painful and cause irritation of the skin. Depending on the methodology used the solution derived may last for short duration lasting up to several weeks.
Long term methods
As a long term measure laser treatment or electrolysis are adopted. Destruction of the hair follicles is achieved through electrolysis.
Laser treatment is less painful than electrolysis but more beneficial as it results in permanent loss of hair. But the laser treatment has to be carried out for a longer period with adequate interval in order to achieve complete hair fall. Laser treatment is also proven to have insignificant side effects on the person treated. However laser cannot treat white hair.
Exploration of medication to remove the syndrome is being carried out. Currently medications to increase the sex hormone binding globulin and luteinizing hormone regularization are reportedly under active testing.