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Understanding and Combatting Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss

By Andrea Douglas
Telogen effluvium

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How Does Telogen Effluvium Affect Hair Loss?

A large number of people, both men and women, suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives. It is normal to lose some hair without considering it a hair loss problem and on average you will lose about 100 hairs per day.

This happens because of the regular cycle of hair growth.

The hair growth cycle is relatively simple: hair grows for a few years, rests for a few months, sheds, and then regrows. The resting stage is known as “telogen.” If the hair roots prematurely enter the telogen phase, this is known as telogen effluvium. This is usually a result of some sort of stress.

Anytime the body experiences a disruption, up to 70% of hair may be shed around two months after the disruption.

This is known as acute telogen effluvium, as it happens just once in response to stress, and is not the same as genetically caused hair thinning, and is more common than chronic telogen effluvium.

What Causes Telogen Effluvium?

Childbirth, severe infection, severe psychological stress, high fever, severe chronic illness, major surgery, crash diets that offer little protein, many medications, and improperly acting thyroid can all cause telogen effluvium.

While most people notice hair loss mainly on the scalp, it is also possible that other body hair may shed and stop growing.

The hair loss is usually noticed while shampooing, combing, or otherwise manipulating the hair. If it is acute telogen effluvium, hair shedding will typically decrease over the next 6 to 8 months once the stressor is removed.

Hair that is lost as a result of telogen effluvium will have club-shaped roots, which is typical of hair that is in the telogen phase. If you are unsure of the cause of your hair loss, you can have a biopsy performed, in which a small piece of the skin on your scalp is removed and observed under a microscope.

Treating Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss

For many cases of telogen effluvium, treatment is unnecessary as, once the disturbance that is causing the extended resting and shedding phase is removed, the hair will soon begin to regrow.

It is, however, important to determine what the underlying cause of the condition is.

You may need to have a panel of blood tests run to find out if you have a condition without other obvious symptoms, like an iron deficiency.

If the cause is more obvious, like a long term medication, fleeting illness, or childbirth, no blood work is required, and it is only necessary to either stop the medication or wait until the child is born or the illness cures up.

Chronic telogen effluvium is not uncommon but has only recently been recognized. Typically it occurs in women who had thick hair in the early stages of their lives, and with thinning appear to have normal thickness hair.

Typically, this condition affects women who are between the ages of 30 and 60 years old and starts with no warning. It tends to fluctuate, instead of being a constant condition.

Generally, this condition does not cause total baldness but can cause severe shedding in its early stages.

Nothing can be done to prevent many of the causes of telogen effluvium, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be effective in combating the disease. If hair growth does not resume to your satisfaction, your doctor may prescribe a topical lotion to stimulate hair growth.