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What Is Telogen Effluvium?

by Marisa Amorasak

Shedding is normal-- it's typical to find up to 150 hairs a day on your brush, pillow, and clothing. People tend to shed even more as they age. Genetic hair loss commonly effects older men. However, there is a different type of hair loss that can result in losing 70% of your hair in just a couple of weeks. If you're able to pull large clumps of hair from your scalp, notice random bald spots, or there is a large amount of shed hair in your living space, you may be suffering from telogen effluvium.

What Is Telogen Effluvium?

Telogen effluvium is a form of alopecia characterized by large amounts of shedding. The hair loss is is often very sudden, and all of the hair lost during telogen effluvium may be lost in a matter of days. The hair loss will result in a diffused sparseness on the scalp, but it doesn't have to be evenly distributed. Hair loss from telogen effluvium may be more drastic in some spots than others. A receding hairline is uncommon in telogen effluvium, but possible in chronic cases.

Telogen effluvium occurs during one of the hair's growth stages called the telogen phase. During this phase, the hair is in a resting period. Normally, this period lasts two to four months. The shedding phase of the growth cycle doesn't occur until after the telogen phase has completed. But during telogen effluvium, something goes awry in the telogen cycle and hair begins to shed before it should.

It's easy to tell if you're suffering from telogen effluvium, or just a bad bout of otherwise normal shedding. Be wary if you are dealing with major hair loss that actually makes a difference in the look of your hair density. Additionally, hair that's in the telogen phase is easily identifiable. The hairs that are being shed should have a visible root at one end. The root should be larger than the rest of the hair shaft and bulb-shaped. It may be white or the same color as your hair.

Telogen Effluvium Causes

It can occur in men, women, and children. It does not appear to be genetic; rather, it is the body's response to other trauma. Telogen effluvium has been reported in relation to childbirth, high fever, severe illness, major surgery, thyroid issues, crash diets, and a variety of medications. The onset of telogen effluvium occurs about two months after the body is exposed to the trauma.

Even though the above causes are all usually sudden developments, the two most common causes of telogen effluvium are stress and a poor diet. Based on animal testing, there appears to be a link between the hair growth phases and the amount of stress a person has. People with more stress are more prone to telogen effluvium because their hair may stay in that telogen resting stage for too long. Similarly, a lack of minerals, amino acids, and vitamins may cause telogen effluvium. Thus, diet-caused telogen effluvium is more common in third-world countries where a person's diet may be deficient of one or more of these essential nutrients. In developed countries, most people's diets include at least some of the nutrients. Some dermatologists argue that an iron deficiency may result in telogen effluvium. Iron deficiencies usually occur in vegetarians due to lack of red meat and women, as they lose a significant amount of iron from monthly menstruation.

Telogen Effluvium Treatment

If the cause of telogen effluvium is known, the best way to treat it is to isolate the cause. If it's following a major surgery, hair growth should resume as the body naturally heals. An iron deficiency can be remedied by a change in diet and supplements. However, oftentimes the absolute cause of telogen effluvium is unknown or untreatable. For example, a person with severe psychological stress may not be able to alleviate their illness. In such cases, medications are prescribed. Minoxidil can be effective at fighting off existing telogen effluvium, but won't prevent it from coming back.

Hair Restoration for Telogen Effluvium

Surgical hair transplants aren't recommended for people who suffer, or who have recently suffered, from telogen effluvium. Since the hair's follicle is problematic, there's just not anywhere reliable to graft the hair from. But if you suffer from another form of hair loss or thinning hair, you may be a fine candidate for hair transplants. If you'd like to learn more about hair restoration or to schedule an appointment with a hair loss specialist in your area, contact us today!

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