Think you’re hairy? Think again
Most people are annoyed by body hair; that’s why procedures like laser hair removal are so popular. And even those people who don’t want their hair gone permanently shave, wax or pluck at least some of it. But next time you’re annoyed because your unibrow has started growing back in, spare a thought for sufferers of hypertrichosis.
Hypertrichosis (or Ambras syndrome if you prefer) is a condition that causes excessive hair to grow all over the body. And we mean all over; this condition is sometimes informally called werewolf syndrome because sufferers can bear more than a passing resemblance to a certain mythical creature. It’s very rare, but it does happen.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many people with hypertrichosis made their living working in circuses and freak shows and were promoted as having actual animal traits. Yowsers!
So what causes this excessive hairiness? In cases of congenital hypertrichosis, where a person is born with the condition, it’s all in the genes – the pesky little buggers.
Congenital terminal hypertrichosis patients have dark, terminal (permanent) hair over their entire body, but there are lots of other types of this condition that see hair grow on only a few body parts – in one case, just the elbows, or the excess hair is finer or lighter than other body hair and therefore less noticeable.
It is also possible to get hypertrichosis as a result of other conditions; in these cases the hair usually grows on the cheeks, upper lip and chin. Some forms can come about as a result of having cancer, or taking certain hair loss prevention drugs (oh, the irony) although medication-induced hypertrichosis is usually reversible.
So folks, next time you’re trying to shave the back of your knees with a blunt razor, don’t complain – you could be a whole lot hairier.