Hair loss specialists have recently highlighted a rise in patients suffering from telogen effluvium, a common cause of temporary hair loss.
Interestingly, the rise appears to amongst people who have contracted the coronavirus. This suggests there may be a link between the two.
In this article, we give you the basics behind the condition Telogen Effluvium.
What exactly is Telogen Effluvium?
The hair cycle typically has three phases: the Anagen or growth phase, the Catagen or transitional phase, and the Telogen or resting phase.
At any point in time, about 85% to 90% of our head hair is actively growing (in the anagen phase) and the other 10% to 15% are resting (in the telogen phase). Hair is in transition (the catagen stage) for a only short period of time.
It is usual for a hair to be in the anagen phase for between two and four years and then enter the telogen phase for between two and four months. It then falls out and is replaced by a new, growing hair. On average, a person naturally loses about 100 hairs a day.
In a person with telogen effluvium, a body change or traumatic shock prematurely pushes more hairs into the telogen phase. Typically in this condition, about 30% of the hairs stop growing and go into the resting phase before falling out.
A person with telogen effluvium can expect to lose an average of 300 hairs a day instead of the usual 100.
What causes Telogen Effluvium?
Acute telogen effluvium can affect people of all age groups and both sexes.
The condition is usually triggered by a shock or trauma or biological change to the body.
Common ‘shock’ triggers include surgery, major physical traumas, and major psychological stress.
Common ‘biological’ triggers include extreme weight loss, extreme change in diet, abrupt hormonal changes (mainly related to women including those associated with childbirth and menopause) and iron deficiency.
There isn't much that can be done to prevent most of the types of physical shock that can trigger telogen effluvium.
The biological triggers are likely to be more preventable, such as by eating a balanced diet that provides enough protein, iron and other nutrients.
How is telogen effluvium diagnosed?
Telogen effluvium is usually diagnosed by its clinical features.
A trichologist (hair specialist) can conduct a trichogram. If more than 25% of head hair is in the telogen stage then this would suggest a person has the condition.
A trichologist may also make a diagnosis on the basis of;
- A gentle hair pull test that reveals an increased number of hairs leaving the head
- An examination which shows diffuse hair thinning involving the entire scalp, with the presence of short hairs of normal thickness
Can Telogen Effluvium make you go bald?
Telogen effluvium will not make you go completely bald. It is likely to cause thinning only in patches in one or more spots on the scalp. Telogen effluvium causes only 25% to 30% of hair to enter the telogen or resting phase, which causes the hair fall out.
It's important to remember that paradoxically, with this type of hair loss, hair fall is a sign of hair regrowth. This is because it is the new hairs coming up through the scalp which push out the resting club hairs.
How long does it usually last?
Because hairs that enter the telogen phase rest in place for two to four months before falling out, you may not notice any hair loss until two to four months after the event that caused the problem.
Telogen effluvium rarely lasts longer than six months, although some cases last longer.
What are the best treatments?
Telogen effluvium is self-correcting and usually resolves itself completely without any treatment over several months.
In the interim, recommendations include correcting any underlying biological cause e.g. treat any underlying scalp disorder or hormonal problem or correct any abnormality in thyroid function or levels of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Otherwise the guidance is to treat your hair gently (avoid over-vigorous combing or brushing) and focus on your diet and nutrition as you may be deficient in some essential vitamins and nutrients that are important to hair health.
Vitamins and minerals important for hair growth include Vitamin C, Biotin, Niacin, Iron and Zinc.
You can purchase biotin gummies from Man Behind The Mirror here
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
Written by Dr. Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director
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