I had written about the vampire syndrome, the walking corpse syndrome which I call the Zombie syndrome but obviously, there’s a syndrome affiliated with stuff like zombies and vampires; Yeah Werewolves! I couldn’t leave them out. I have seen different movies concerning werewolves and they are usually at war with the vampires. A very popular movie that shows their hate relationship is our cute gruesome love story in the movie Twilight; it’s basically a love triangle that reads Vampire loves a girl, girl loves Vampires, Werewolf loves girl, girl loves werewolf but as a friend, not a lover. That basically rounds it up but you should see the movie - Werewolves and Vampires had to partner (despite the hatred between them ) in other to win a greater enemy; a quite interesting movie you.
Well, that’s enough of the Movie Saga, let’s talk about the werewolf syndrome proper.
As we know most wild carnivores have a lot of furs and the wolf is not an exception. This condition is named after the Werewolves because of the outrageous growth of hair in very inadequate place like the face! Yeah, you heard me right, the face; people with this condition have hairs growing all over their faces and other parts of the body although more prominent on their faces. Now don’t get scared, they do not grow extra limbs and can also perform normal human activities and socialization. This condition is extremely rare and can happen to anyone irrespective of their sex, age, race or nationality; Symptoms could be conspicuous at birth or could become conspicuous overtime as the baby grows.
These hairs can grow in two patterns; either all over the body or in small patches and are restricted to a particular area in the body. The earlier pattern of growth is called the generalized hypertrichosis and the later pattern is called the localized hypertrichosis; I forgot to add that the scientific name for this condition is hypertrichosis thus the names ( Generalized and Localized hypertrichosis). Having this condition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was quite lucrative as you could easily get a job as a sideshow performer in the circus because of their distinctive hairy characteristics.
Someone may be wondering why this condition is regarded to be so rare but the fact that girls with beards and coarse hair on their chest and other parts of the body where males normally grow hair, are not really hard to find if you really look around. Well, the kind of hair growth condition you may imagine isn’t what I am talking about here - these females that grow coarse hair on their chin and other parts where only men should grow hair, are affected by a condition called Hirsutism. Hirsutism is sometimes mistaken for Hypertrichosis but they are quite different and not interchangeable with the earlier being common and easily managed and the latter being extremely rare and also hard to manage.
Congenital Hypertrichosis vs Acquired Hypertrichosis
Hypertrichosis can either be congenital or acquired where the earlier is as a result of genetic mutation and the later is as a result of side effects of drugs or cancer. The congenital form can be seen from birth and is further divided into six forms;
Hypertrichosis lanuginosa, Generalized hypertrichosis, Terminal hypertrichosis, Circumscribed hypertrichosis, Localized hypertrichosis and Nevoid hypertrichosis. *
The congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa is a form of congenital hypertrichosis that follows an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance - it is first noticed at birth with the appearance of lanugo hair spread all over the body of the baby. This hair growth does not disappear just like in the case of humans who are not affected by the condition but continues to grow in abnormal places on the infant's body.
I’ll skip the generalized hypertrichosis because I explained it earlier in this article. Down to the next one - Terminal hypertrichosis where these abnormal hair starts growing from birth and continues throughout the individual’s life. This hair is usually terminal hair which is long, thick and mostly black; it grows and covers the individual’s entire face and sometimes body.
The Circumscribed hypertrichosis on the other hand is just like the localized hypertrichosis with the difference being that in the localized hypertrichosis, hair is more prevalent in a particular part of our area of the body while in the circumscribed hypertrichosis the hair is restricted to an area of the body which is usually the external surfaces of the upper extremities. The Nevoid hypertrichosis occurs when there’s an outrageous growth of hair, regardless of the type of hair growth occurs in a specific and defined area of the body.
As I said earlier, Hypertrichosis can be either Congenital or Acquired. I have said a bit about Congenital Hypertrichosis now let’s understand a bit of the Acquired Hypertrichosis; well, of course, this subheading reads “Congenital Hypertrichosis Vs Acquired Hypertrichosis” so why would I want to leave the Acquired Hypertrichosis out? ( It’s obviously a rhetorical one). From the name Acquired Hypertrichosis you could tell that this form wasn’t originally possessed but only came as a result of environmental (both internal and external) forces.
This form of hypertrichosis is mostly associated with the abusive ingestion of drugs or general drug ingestion. Here the vellus hair (which is much thinner than the lanugo hair and appears after the disappearance of the lanugo on the same surface) changes to terminal hair which is most conspicuous on the extremities and forehead etc. Some of the drugs which cause acquired congenital hypertrichosis are Anticonvulsants - Phenytoin, Immunosuppressives - Cyclosporine, Vasodilators - Diazoxide, Minoxidil
Antibiotics - Streptomycin, Diuretics - Acetazolamide, Photosensitizers - Psoralen etc.
Acquired hypertrichosis lanuginosa, Generalized acquired hypertrichosis,
Patterned hypertrichosis and Localized hypertrichosis are all forms of acquired hypertrichosis. The Acquired hypertrichosis lanuginosa is characterized by the rapid change of hair follicles to lanugo or baby hair and it’s more prevalent in the face of an individual. It is a paraneoplastic disease that is usually related to internal malignancy birthing it’s alternative name “malignant down”.
The generalized acquired hypertrichosis is usually as a result of various faulty systemic conditions like thyroid abnormalities, central nervous system disturbances, anorexia nervosa etc. This condition is associated with the abnormal and excessive growth of hair in one follicle and affects specific areas like the upper lips and chin on the face of an individual. The patterned hypertrichosis occurs when there is an increase in hair growth in a particular pattern of hair formation while the localized occurs when hair growth increases in a particular area of an individual’s body as a result of skin irritation.
What happens in the body of an individual causing them to have this excess growth of hair and what are the signs and symptoms
This condition is believed to come about as a result of genetic mutation and specifically mutation on chromosome 17 and also on the MAP2k6 gene that is responsible for the emission of millions of nucleotides. The main cause of hypertrichosis is not yet known or clear enough but Scientist believes that it is associated with gene alteration mostly found on the sex chromosomes. Lest we forget, the early man used was believed to have hairs all over their body as they gradually evolved from apes into becoming the humans we are now. Scientists assumed that the early humans had genes which made them have terminal hair all over their body just like the apes but began to lose these genes as time went by and in the process losing this hair pattern and excessive growth characteristics of apes.
These werewolf syndromes could have come from some of the early men genes which had not been completely wiped away because you know, well, there are no absolutes in life. The symptoms of hypertrichosis are quite obvious which is the excessive growth of hair in abnormal places on an individual’s skin and body. Missing teeth, Intellective delay, Epilepsy, Enlarged gums, malformation features, Abnormalities of the eyes, heart, bones and kidneys can also pass as symptoms of werewolf syndrome.
This syndrome can arise from various reasons like the rapid change of vellus hair to terminal hair in places where it shouldn’t change; causing hair growth to be excessive and this is more common in adolescence. Hair noticed in an individual’s body who is suffering from hypertrichosis is not the usual hair that grows on our skin, it’s rather long, stronger and denser than the average hair that grows on our skin; You know like having pubic hair on your face :) gross right ?. Also, this condition is easily diagnosed because of its conspicuous morphological and clinical presentation which is the presence of excessive hair and variation in hair pattern and growth of an individual.
How do we manage this condition?
I used to have a friend who suffered from hirsutism ( as I mentioned earlier, it’s a condition where a female adopts the hair growth pattern of a male ) in school. She felt really insecure and ugly because of the way some guys and even girls addressed her; she had terminal hairs on her chin, chest, legs etc and the only way she could use to fix up her insecurities was to shave. Well, this did not help her at all because the more she shaved the higher the hair growth speed on the area. Using shaving stick to shave off the hairs on her body wasn’t just enough because the terminal hairs came out more aggressively after shaving. It’s quite sad that she didn’t know that they were other means which she would have used to manage her condition more efficiently; which is the reason why I am going to share this with us so we help ourselves and even those around us.
Before I proceed, let’s, first of all, understand that hypertrichosis can be managed based on its form as there is really no permanent cure for the congenital hypertrichosis but the Acquired form of hypertrichosis can be managed efficiently.
A very common method of managing hypertrichosis is shaving like my old friend used to do, which is a form of temporary hair removal technique. Another way to manage hypertrichosis is the use of electrolysis and the removal of hair using lasers which is very effective in the permanent removal of hair when applied repeatedly over a period of time. The permanent hair removal process requires a person who is skilful enough to carry out the processes without adverse effects on the victim's skin and health. Electrolysis and laser hair removal focuses on destroying the hair follicles where the hair grows out from; it is basically combatting the problem from its roots :) and it turns out to be very efficient.
My thoughts on this condition
This condition is very rare with only 50 recorded cases of its congenital form in the whole world. Most people haven’t heard about this condition and would find it really strange and uncomfortable if they meet people with this condition for the first time. The werewolf syndrome can result in other conditions if not recognized and diagnosed as soon as possible. Just to reiterate, the syndrome is not infectious, and its occurrence is mostly genetic, and you definitely don’t have to worry if your family doesn’t have a case like this in its history books and if you are not involved in the misuse of drugs or drug abuse.
Creating awareness for this condition can be of help to both sufferers and medical practitioners as well, in that sufferers are not treated differently than other humans. I could imagine someone who suffered from hypertrichosis and lives in a typical village governed by superstitious beliefs and what not; The villagers out of ignorance might just sacrifice him/her to their gods or even banish them from the village. If you are a Christian you should remember the story of Nebuchadnezzar; some scientists believe that he was suffering from hypertrichosis from the description and was casted into the forest because of the hairs on his body that made him look like a wild beast (This is really debatable, even I, doubt it and if it’s indeed true it’ll be the Acquired form of hypertrichosis). They could be treated worse by people who are ignorant of this condition; I mentioned a lady who got a Job as a circus freak because she had excessive hair all over her face and body; this could have been avoided if these people knew about this condition and ways in which it could be managed.