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May 2012

Plica Polonica: Confusion, Confabulation, and the Death of a Disease

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and North Florida Dermatology Associates, Jacksonville.

Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(5):633. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2012.443

For half a millennium, physicians and scholars have investigated the etiology of and therapeutic options for a disease known as plica polonica, described originally by Johannes Schenck von Grafenberg1 in 1584 as an irreversible plaiting of the hair accompanied by lice, headache, mutilating arthritis, scoliosis, and onychogryphosis. Referred to variously as trica incubarus (devil's hair), weichselzopf, and plica polonica, early descriptions of this entity focused as much on its perceived spiritual roots as its medical origins.

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