What Is Werewolf Syndrome?


wiseGEEK Writing Contest

In case you were wondering, "werewolf syndrome" is an unfamiliar discovered disease that is actually called hypertrichosis. It is a condition of excessive body hair that affects mostly the upper body, limbs, and face. The hair is usually thick, unwanted, and can also grow in small patches.

There are different types of this condition such as congenital hypertrichosis, which is unpigmented, fine, soft hair that grows excessively and persists through life. Naevoid hypertrichosis is where an abundance of hair grows thickly in one spot or place, with normal hair surrounding it. Acquired hypertrichosis occurs on a individual after birth, unlike the other types of this disease, which usually occur before birth.

Statistics show that there is a one out of a billion chance to get this disease. Also, only 19 people in the world alive today have hypertrichosis. This disease can be mild or severe, although severe cases are rare. In the severe cases, it is unmistakingly due to genetic defects. Some of these people have been featured in sideshows with names like "bearded lady," "werewolf man," and "dog-boy."

You may have heard of the two brothers named Victor "Danny" Ramos and Gabriel "Larry" Ramos. These brothers have excessive hair on their face and chest, almost looking like fur. The only visible place they do not have this hair is around their eyes, mouth, and upper ears and hands. They both have worked as acrobats, and even their two cousins have this disease.

This condition has also appeared in some forms of media. In the movie 'Fur: an imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus' the main character in the movie has severe hypertrichosis. Also, the film 'human nature' shows a woman with the disease. In three novels by Patricia Cornwell, her character Jean-Baptiste Chandonne suffers from this condition.

To further explain this disease, it is caused by an androgen excess disorder. Androgen hair is hair follicles that respond to androgens, which allows for the rate of hair growth and heaviness of the hairs to increase. In most cases, hypertrichosis is genetic, but even certain drugs and toxins (like mercury) can cause excessive hair growth. Also, it can be caused by malnutrition or an untreated infection. For most cases, this disease is a cosmetic problem. Possible treatments could be bleaching of the hair, waxing, which is only temporary, or permanent removal called electrolysis or laser destruction of hair follicles. Electrolysis is somewhat expensive and prices range up to 25 through 150 dollars.

submitted by L. Chapman