About the disease
Hypertrichosis is a rare condition that affects men more often than women and is characterized by the excessive growth of hair on the back, chest, face and other parts of the body. Throughout the history of medicine, there has only been a few hundred reported cases of congenital hypertrichosis. Often confused with hirsutism (which is the excessive growth of hair on the female body due to a hormonal imbalance) hypertrichosis is a much rarer condition and develops due to genetic mutations. In the USA, only 7% of the female population are affected by excessive growth of hair in unusual places.
There are several types of hypertrichosis. Congenital hypertrichosis is present from birth. It is normal for babies to have lanugo when they are born; it usually disappears when the baby is a few weeks old. In babies with congenital hypertrichosis, however, this soft fine hair continues to grow and starts to look like the hair that normally only grows on the back of the head. In more severe cases of congenital hypertrichosis, thick hair can cover the whole body and will grow long until cut. Left untreated, this hair will continue to grow throughout the individual’s lifetime.
Another type of this condition is known as nevoid hypertrichosis. It is associated with skin and pigmentation abnormalities and tends to grow in defined patches all over the body or in specific areas.
Acquired hypertrichosis can develop for a number of reasons. Malnutrition, or bad dietary habits that have resulted in an eating disorder such as anorexia, can lead to the development of hypertrichosis. Certain drugs can lead to excessive hair growth, but it usually disappears once the individual stops taking the drug-irritants. Some types of cancer can also lead to the development of acquired hypertrichosis.
- Hair growing in unusual places
- Body hair on new born babies continues to grow as the child grows older
- Hair can grow anywhere except the lips, soles of the feet and behind the ears
- During a general examination, the doctor will examine the patient’s skin, and the hair that is growing in an unusual place on their body.
- The doctor will ask if there have ever been any cases of hypertrichosis in the patient’s family.
- Genetic testing is useful in identifying a genetic mutation that may have caused hypertrichosis.
- Hormonal testing is necessary in cases of acquired hypertrichosis, to check the patient’s hormone levels.
- In cases where hair is growing in the form of patches on certain parts of the body, these areas may also be checked for any other abnormalities.
- Laser treatment and electrolysis can be effective in the permanent removal of hair growing in unwanted places.
- The patient may need to undergo several sessions before the hair stops growing.