Marie Unna Hereditary Hypotrichosis: Congenital Hairlessness

Hair loss is typically often associated with older men. But not only these men can be affected by hair loss, many women also struggle with thinning hair. Moreover, hair loss does not only occur after a certain age, but can affect very young people too. For example, the so-called Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis is a congenital hairlessness, which therefore already occurs in infancy. Those affected suffer greatly, as the hair loss is always permanent.

What are the causes of Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis?

Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis is a form of hair loss that is congenital. This means that the disease that causes hair loss is present from birth. The cause of hairlessness is a malformation (mutation) of the genes that are mainly responsible for hair formation.

To date, however, it has not yet been conclusively clarified why this mutation of the hair-forming genes occurs. One of the reasons for this is that there are very few cases of this disease.

Statistically speaking, the probability that a child will be affected by this disease is only one in a million. However, it can be observed that there is a familial incidence. Several siblings or even generations within a family are often affected by the malformation.

Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis

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Which symptoms occur?

The course of the disease can vary. In some babies suffering from the malformation, apparently normal hair growth is initially observed after birth. However, the hair is usually much thinner than in other babies.

Other babies born with congenital hairlessness, however, have no hair at all from birth. Neither on the head nor on the eyelashes or eyebrows. It is possible, however, that these children will also start to grow hair at a later stage.

The hair is very coarse and has a wire-like structure. The hair, which grows very irregularly, is difficult to comb or even style. At the latest during puberty, however, the hairs start to fall out. This happens not only on the scalp, but affects the entire body.

The arms, legs, eyelashes, eyebrows and armpits are affected. The hair is permanently lost, which means that it will not grow back. Although affected persons lose all their body hair at some point, there is no other physical limitation or abnormality due to the disease.

How is the diagnosis of Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis made?

If there are already known cases of Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis in the family, this can give a first indication of the malformation. Usually the diagnosis is made by the dermatologist as soon as the first symptoms appear which indicate the genetic defect. A detailed discussion and a DNA analysis usually lead to a clear diagnosis.

What are the treatment options?

Up to now, there is no uniform medical therapy that can help against Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis and thus stop or even reverse the loss of hair. The affected persons only have the possibility to come to terms with their different and special appearance.

However, many do not succeed in this, which is why they have to struggle with psychological problems. The consequences of the malformation can be for example the loss of self-confidence or quality of life.

For many people, full and healthy hair is an ideal of beauty and is associated with vitality. Therefore, it often happens that social contacts are avoided and the patients themselves feel unattractive. Some reach for wigs to at least hide the hairlessness on their head from outsiders.

Is a hair transplant possible?

Many of those affected by the genetic defect will certainly think about a hair transplantation at some point. In general, this is feasible as long as intact hair follicles are still present, but it is not practical in this form of hair loss.

This is because the follicular units that are implanted in the recipient area affected by hair loss during such a surgical procedure would be falsely identified as foreign bodies by the immune system and would then be destroyed and rejected.

Hair implantation in people suffering from congenital hair loss is therefore not a permanent solution. The dream of a full and healthy head of hair through a hair transplant is therefore not feasible for patients with the congenital malformation.

Is there an alternative to hair restoration surgery?

An alternative to a hair transplant is the so-called micro scalp pigmentation. In this cosmetic treatment, hair stubble is simulated with the help of very fine colour pigments. In their entirety, the colour pigments then have the effect of a freshly shaved head.

The method is particularly suitable for men to simulate a very short haircut. For women, on the other hand, hair simulation is often not a satisfactory alternative, as only stubble but no long hair can be simulated.

The color pigments used in the cosmetic treatment are completely broken down in the body after a few years, so that the simulation has to be refreshed in due course.

Conclusion: Hair loss due to Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis is permanent

Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis is a malformation of the hair-forming genes that occurs very rarely. The genetic defect often becomes noticeable in infants, as the children are born completely hairless.

But even if some children initially show apparently normal hair growth, hair loss occurs at the latest in teenage years. Not only the hair on the head is affected by hair loss, but also all other body hair, for example on the arms, armpits, legs or eyelashes.

So far, the exact cause of the disease is not yet fully known, but it can be determined that a familial clustering occurs. Persons affected by congenital hairlessness often have to struggle with considerable self-doubt because the loss of hair is permanent. With a wig you can hide the congenital hairlessness at least on the head.

However, a hair transplant, through which new, healthy hair grows on the bald spots, is not useful for this genetic defect. The transplanted follicular units would again be identified by the body as foreign bodies and would then be destroyed.

Micro scalp pigmentation, in which hair stubble is simulated by tiny color pigments, can be an optimal alternative to hair implantation, especially for men who want to simulate a short hairstyle.