What Is Pili Torti?

Andy Josiah

Pili torti is a rare hair-related disease that is characterized by short and fragile hairs that have a twisted appearance when one views it under a microscope. It is generally classified as a cutaneous condition. This means that it is an ailment that affects, or is related to, the skin. Although scalp hair is the primary site of pili torti, any area that has a considerable collection of hair can be affected. This includes the armpits, eyebrows and eyelashes, and pubic area.

Anorexia nervosa is associated with pili torti.
Anorexia nervosa is associated with pili torti.

Also known as trichokinesis or corkscrew hair, pili torti is commonly believed to occur due to genetics. It tends to be acquired as well, however. Pili torti tends to occur in one’s early years, particularly childhood. It can also show up later in life, which is indicative of the acquired form of the disease. Pili torti in its genetic form is most common with people who have considerably thin blonde hair.

Menke's syndrome can cause pili torti, along with seizures.
Menke's syndrome can cause pili torti, along with seizures.

In some instances, inherited pili torti, rather than pili torti that occurs alone, may appear with several other hair disorders. The most common one is Menkes disease. Characterized by a copper deficiency in the body, people with Menkes disease experience a coarsening, twisting, discoloring and decreasing volume of the hair. Menkes disease typically begins during infancy, and the victim might experience other, more serious symptoms such as seizures, mental retardation and weak muscle tone. Menkes disease is also known as copper transport disease, Menkes syndrome, kinky hair disease, Menkes kinky hair syndrome or steely hair disease.

Generic pili torti sufferers commonly have thin, blonde hair.
Generic pili torti sufferers commonly have thin, blonde hair.

Pili torti might be the signal of any of several other medical issues besides Menkes disease. Affections at the scalp might be triggered by inflammatory, immune system-related conditions such as cutaneous lupus erythematosus or lupus erythematosus. Prolonged intake of oral retinoids such as acitretin and isotretinoin can cause hair loss. Pili torti is one of the characteristics of the autosomal recessive disorder Bjornstad syndrome, and ectodermal dysplasia denotes abnormal hair development among other anatomical parts. Other medical conditions associated with pili torti include the x-linked dominant disorder Bazex syndrome and the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

Pili torti may affect a person's armpits.
Pili torti may affect a person's armpits.

Acquired pili torti is generally easier to treat than the inherited kind. In terms of treatment, physicians will generally discourage any situation that may cause damage to the hair. This can include excessive combing and sunlight, hair grooming that involves heating apparatuses such as hair dryers, and using hair dye or coloring. It is also recommended that patients sleep on pillowcases that are made of material with soft, glossy surfaces such as satin.

A copper deficiency can lead to extreme fatigue, hair loss, depression and fragile bones.
A copper deficiency can lead to extreme fatigue, hair loss, depression and fragile bones.
Pili torti will cause hairs to have a twisted appearance when viewed under a microscope.
Pili torti will cause hairs to have a twisted appearance when viewed under a microscope.

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