Pili Torti

Doctor doing Treatment on Boy's HairDoctor doing Treatment on Boy's Hair

I know the name pili torti sounds more like a food dish, but it's really a rare genetic hair disease and guess what? It can cause hair loss as well.

This condition is characterized by short, abnormally fragile, or brittle hair, which if viewed under a microscope would appear as a flattened hair shaft with narrow and twisted segments.

Pili torti is known as corkscrew hair, or trichokinesis, and is recognized as a cutaneous disease, or one that affects the skin. The name pili torti comes from the Latin name pili which means hair and torti, or tortus, which means twisted.

There are two kinds of pili torti; the hereditary and the acquired. The one that is inherited, is also known as genetic, because it is transmitted from parents to children.

On the other hand, the acquired version can appear in childhood, adolescence, or later. That's why it's called acquired pili torti.

Although the main place it can be detected is the scalp, it can nevertheless appear almost anywhere on the body where hair grows, such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, and pubic hair.

Who are more prone to suffer from this disease? When it comes to the genetic pili torti, people with blonde hair are their main target.

The one who inherits it, can have it alone, or together with other conditions, such as:

Ectodermal dysplasia-This is a group of conditions in which there is abnormal development of the hair, nails, skin, teeth, and glands that produce sweat.

Bjornstad syndrome-This is a rare variation of hair dysplasia, or abnormal hair development, but it also affects the eyelashes and eyebrows. It can also lead to deafness in adolescence.

Bazex syndrome-This is a rare disease that affects the skin producing plaques of psoriasis, and skin lesions that can turn into basal cancer. The plaques of psoriasis can lacerate the scalp so much, that with time it reaches the condition of scarring alopecia.

Menkes disease-This is a disease in which the body has a hard time transporting copper and absorbing it. Low levels of this mineral can cause mental retardation and affect the development of hair, blood vessels, bones, skin, and nerves.

Acquired pili torti can go along with other conditions such as sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, malnutrition, and anorexia.

Pili torti can also be acquired through oral retinoids such as acitretin and isotretinoin, as indicated on Wisegeek.com.

But, maybe now you ask yourself the question, what are the symptoms of this disease?

Pili Torti Symptoms

Twisted Hair Under MicroscopeTwisted Hair Under Microscope

The main symptom that affects 80 to 99 percent is:

1. Flattened and twisted hair-Otherwise the condition would not be called pili torti, which means twisted hair. But, to find out, you have to see the hair under a microscope.

From the second up to the sixth symptom are affected from 30 to 79 percent. It includes:

2. Broken, or abnormal eyebrows-For this you do not need a microscope but look in a mirror. If you do it, and your eyebrows look strange, it could be acquired pili torti.

3. Tooth Enamel Abnormality-Let's be honest here. What does your dentist tell you when he examines your teeth? Does she compliment you on how good they look, or does he freak out? Watch out! Problems with tooth enamel could be a sign.

4. Onychodysplasia-It is the same as misshapen, twisted, or abnormal nails. So the hair isn't the only thing twisted here.

5. Fragile hair-If the hair is fragile, it breaks easily, and being thin, it will be seen as hair loss.

6. Scarring Alopecia-This is a type of alopecia that mainly affects the scalp. Where plaques of psoriasis form, fibrous tissue, or scar, forms and hair stops growing. It can also occur in the hair on the face and body.

7. Deafness or hearing difficulty-This affects 5 to 29 percent of patients. When one of the five senses of the body is at stake, we are talking about something very serious. 


At this time there is no treatment to cure pili torti, but palliative remedies can be used, that is, ways to treat the symptoms, instead of the disease.

Genetic pili torti tend to get better on its own, after puberty. Although, some are affected for life.

If that is the case, scarring alopecia appears. First by forming psoriasis plaques, which over time form a fibrosis, or scar, where from then on, the hair no longer grows.

Once it is discovered that you suffer from this rare disease, it is very important that tests and evaluations are done, in order to detect any possible neurological damage, or problems with the teeth, nails, hair, and ears.

It is almost always recommended to treat the hair in the best way, such as sleeping on satin pillow cases. Avoid braids, and brushing, dyeing, or painting your hair frequently. Stay out of sunlight, or instead, wear a hat.

Also, use a mild shampoo, diluted with warm water, and using a conditioner. Nor should we use devices to apply heat to the hair, such as straightening brushes, or hot brushes, or irons, or the hair dryer, unless it is placed in a cool air setting.

On the other hand, when in the acquired version of pili torti, the cause is oral retinoids, you only have to stop the treatment so that the disease does not continue to advance. Also some people decide to wear a wig, if they have no other alternative.

It is true, pili torti may sound like a food dish, but it is rather a rare inherited, or acquired disease that can range from twisted hair and nails, to deafness, and which can also cause hair loss.