Marie Antoinette syndrome; Is overnight white hair true?

The last few months of life Marie Antoinette It was terrible. In 1793, he witnessed the dissolution of the monarchy in France and the surrender of the king Louis XVI, her husband, to the sharp blade of the guillotine and her son was taken from her. The situation in France became more chaotic day by day and people were involved in unprecedented bloodshed and terror. Finally, it was the turn of the Queen of France. Only a day before, Marie Antoinette was informed of her sentence and then she was taken to her cell in the prison. A few hours later, he was beheaded in front of a crowd of enthusiastic people who had come to watch his execution at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Quoted from the scientific base EFL ScienceApparently, the mental pressure that Marie Antoinette endured that night was enough to turn all her hair white. According to legends and various historical accounts, exactly the same thing happened to the unfortunate queen. Henry CampaNadima Melkeh later wrote in her diary:

The first time I saw his majesty after the miserable disaster of Warren (the unsuccessful attempt of the king and courtiers to escape from Paris), he took off his hat and asked me to see the effect of his grief on his hair. She had turned into a seventy-year-old woman overnight.

Marie Antoinette was 37 years old when she died; Therefore, such a complication may be rare; But it was happening. However, the case of the Queen of France is not the first known case of this rare syndrome in history; But earlier in the 16th century, Thomas Moore, the famous philosopher and politician who opposed the separation of Britain from the Catholic Church, also suffered a similar fate. All the hairs of Thomas Moore’s head were also white before the execution; But what exactly causes these changes?

A handful of reports and studies on Marie Antoinette syndrome

Marie Antoinette syndrome with the scientific name “canitas subita” is not one of the long-standing scientific debates. Scientific news agency ZMA Science It reports that there are many stories and narratives about this anomaly; But still a handful of scientific researches have been done about this condition. For example, there are reports of World War II bombing survivors who apparently had this syndrome; But even in this example, researchers do not agree. In fact, some researchers believe that an unknown mechanism leads to the occurrence of this complication.

Marie Antoinette

According to historical accounts, the terrible mental pressure on Queen Marie Antoinette before her execution caused all her hair to turn white overnight.

In another relatively recent report from 1957, an American dermatologist stated that he personally witnessed the graying of a 63-year-old man’s hair in a matter of weeks. This man had fallen down several stairs and even had hair loss; Although it is said that his bald spots were not that important. 17 months later, this patient not only developed vitiligo (white spots on the skin); Rather, all his hair had turned gray.

It seems that if Marie Antoinette syndrome really exists, anxiety and emotional shocks play an important role in it and cause the destruction of melanin (hair pigments). This fact is consistent with other research that is available on natural hair whitening. According to the researchers, this problem is completely reversible; Unless the body permanently loses the ability to produce melanin. However, there are still few documented cases of Marie Antoinette syndrome and even less research into the condition.

What does science say about Marie Antoinette syndrome?

when Brun Sequard, a 45-year-old neurologist, noticed some white hairs in his beard that had appeared unexpectedly. Sequard plucked these white threads; But a few days later, he saw new white hairs. He repeated this process continuously for the next 5 to 6 weeks. Interestingly, all this time, new white hairs appeared among his beards, which apparently had all grown overnight.

In a medical study, the results of which were published in 2013, the story of Brun Sequard and 195 other cases were described. According to this research, at least for Sequard’s case, no external stimulus was found. The color change didn’t happen overnight (also the changes happened very quickly); However, in almost all such cases, emotional distress is the main cause of gray hair.

Acute stress and emotional shock and an unknown mechanism are among the most serious hypotheses of Marie Antoinette syndrome.

As the authors of the article pointed out at the end, out of the 195 cases they studied, 126 people have experienced horrific and emotionally crushing events. For example, in the spring of 1923, a 63-year-old widow suffered a severe injury after slipping and was terrified.

This woman was hospitalized for 3 months. The woman had 80 cm long dark hair. On the morning of the second day of hospitalization, his hair shaft had turned white about 1 cm. In the last examination of the woman, which was done 92 days after being discharged from the hospital, the whiteness of her hair shaft was about 10 cm, and all the hair behind her head had turned gray.

Some cases were also related to psychological problems. In one particular case, a 13-year-old patient with severe mental retardation who had occasional epileptic seizures lost his hair color for a period. Interestingly, this patient’s hair color returned. This was completely in line with recent research that reported the reversibility of this condition.

This patient’s hair color kept changing from yellowish blonde to golden red and back again. The patient’s hair had turned reddish for 7 to 8 days, coinciding with episodes of mental confusion. The possibility of baldness (alopecia) as well as hair coloring was completely ruled out; Because at least several nurses and doctors witnessed the constant changes in the patient’s hair color.

severe stress

According to various historical accounts, Marie Antoinette syndrome is closely related to emotional shock or extreme stress.

In another example, a 21-year-old woman with schizophrenia had similar problems. However, some researchers still do not consider Marie Antoinette syndrome as a separate complication; Rather, it is considered an acute period of regional baldness (alopecia areata). In this condition, the hair on the head or other parts of the body falls out.

The mystery of this rare complication remains unsolved; But there is no definite reason to show that rapid episodes of this syndrome can occur without regional baldness. Meanwhile, the large number of confirmed cases suggests the need for more targeted research in this area.

Science is separated from legend

So far, one thing is clear: Marie Antoinette syndrome is much more common in stories and legends than in real life. There is no doubt that this complication has a great dramatic appeal for storytelling; But most of the time, it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction. For example, researchers in a prospective infection study Henry IVthe king of England, had investigated this complication.

If Marie Antoinette syndrome is indeed a separate condition, it probably has a lot to do with stress, which in turn suggests some sort of autoimmune disease. However, research conducted on mice completely refutes this hypothesis. This research showed that stress causes white hair in mice even though the immune system is suppressed. Therefore, an autoimmune response is completely ruled out.

In addition, the mentioned research showed that the excessive activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which causes the fight-or-flight response, has stopped the production of pigment cells in the hair follicles. However, this research was not so big and more importantly, it was done on laboratory animals. Therefore, its results cannot be generalized to humans.

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Another study also shows that historical reports of Marie Antoinette syndrome are associated with regional baldness and loss of hair color; But still, many cases of syndrome do not match with any of the mentioned diseases. Therefore, the science is still inconclusive and there are many differences of opinion among researchers. Perhaps the reason is largely due to the old age and rarity of actual cases of the syndrome.

final word

Finally, according to various historical accounts, Marie Antoinette syndrome is closely related to extreme stress. Although stress can cause premature graying of hair, it is still unclear whether this can happen overnight or over a period of weeks or months. This rare complication may be related to some hormonal disorders or autoimmune diseases.

However, there is still not enough information to draw clear conclusions about this. There is no doubt that more studies will be done on this syndrome in the future and there are many hopes that the root of this condition will be discovered soon.

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