Over the past few months, an increasing number of first-hand accounts have been reported that hair loss is a symptom of coronavirus.
Indeed, many observers point to a thinning of Boris’s plume, whilst there is a viral video of the US actress Alyssa Milano, combing through her hair with clumps coming out. In the clip she says, “I just wanted to show you the amount of hair that is coming out of my head as a result of Covid.”
Public health officials describe Covid-19 as a short-term illness caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The guidance is that people should expect to recover within two weeks or so.
However, specialists at several hair treatment centres, in the UK and Turkey, have noticed an uplift of cases of patients visiting them with the symptoms of Telogen Effluvium, weeks and months after previously having contracted the coronavirus.
Telogen Effluvium is a condition in which a person sheds more hair than normal. It is a form of temporary hair loss that usually happens after stress, a shock, or a traumatic event. For some, catching coronavirus and being symptomatic is likely to be such a trigger.
Whilst it’s normal for someone to be in the process of shedding about 10% of the hair on their head at one time, Telogen Effluvium occurs when that number rises to 30% or more.
Indeed, we all shed up to 100 strands a day, whereas people suffering from Telogen Effluvium can experience losing from three times that amount.
When suffering from Telogen Effluvium, the normal hair growth cycle is disturbed, as a greater proportion of hair follicles prematurely leave the growing phase and move into the resting/shedding phase. This is usually most visible at the top of the scalp.
The more acute the condition, the more hair that is lost. With acute Telogen Effluvium there is a dramatic increase in the amount of hair shed daily.
Interestingly, whilst it does appear there is a positive correlation between contracting coronavirus, and Telogen Effluvium, scientists are still grappling to fully understand the exact connection between the two.
Some believe it is biological. It’s clear that COVID-19 prompts a strong response from the immune system. As the immune system fights back, the body’s resources are diverted to fighting the virus and protecting the vital organs.
As hair is not vital for the body to function, when our bodies are under attack it is one of the first things to be impacted in the case of a virus and illness.
Others believe that the connection may be due to the psychological factors behind the virus.
There are many related factors that could be contributing to the shedding including the emotional stress of the illness, financial or personal worries as a result of the pandemic, and also weight loss and poor nutrition during the illness.
The good news is Telogen Effluvium is only temporary and any hair loss shouldn’t be permanent.
Telogen Effluvium that is caused by an infection generally improves on its own accord usually around six months after recovery from the illness, although it will take many more months before the hair is restored to its full normal volume.
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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