The 68-year-old woman pictured above "requested medical attention for a sudden increase in hair growth that she had noticed 11 months earlier. She had lost more than 30 kg during this same period. Physical examination revealed fine lanugo hair all over her face (Panel A) and body (Panel B) and a deeply furrowed tongue, which caused a burning sensation. A diagnosis of acquired hypertrichosis lanuginosa was made...the woman was depressed about her condition and decided to shave. "
"Hypertrichosis lanuginosa acquisita (HTLA) is excessive growth on the body of fine hair of the lanugo or vellus type...Metabolic conditions reported to be associated with HTLA include...malnutrition, especially when due to anorexia nervosa."
As mentioned above, lanugo can occur not only on the face but all over the body in an effort to keep the body warm when the body lacks enough fat to accomplish this.
Below is an excellent summary of more of the devastating effects of anorexia nervosa on the body:
"Anorexia causes many physical problems. For instance, it upsets the normal functions of hormones. For girls, this means the body is unable to produce enough of the female hormone estrogen because it does not have enough fat. This will cause an absence of menstrual cycles, called amenorrhea. For boys, anorexia causes a decrease in the production of the male hormone testosterone, which results in a loss of sexual interest.
An anorectic body lacks the protective layer of fat it needs to stay warm. To compensate for the lack of fat, lanugo (fine hair) will grow all over the body to keep it warm. Another problem anorexia causes is a decrease in bone mass. The body needs calcium for strong bones. Since an anorectic is not eating enough food, which is the source of calcium, the body's bones suffer and weaken. Later in life, this could result in a dangerous bone disease called osteoporosis.
Additionally, without the fuel it needs, an anorectic's body will respond as if it is being assaulted and begins to fight back in order to survive. To survive the body must have energy, but because the body has no food to turn into energy, it seeks out the muscles, and eventually, the organs (heart, kidney, and brain) for sustenance—often causing permanent damage to the organs in the process. This is the most serious consequence of anorexia and can possibly lead to cardiac arrest and/or kidney failure, both of which can result in death. "
For those who are anorexic, please take heed. Lanugo may be the least of your worries.
The New England Journal of Medicine