First, I’d like to wish all of you a happy fall….into winter. If you’re in Texas, I’ll wish you a happy remainder of summer and winter twice a week! I’ve decided to start an informational blog series on hair loss which is major concern for many people of varying genders, ages and ethnicities. Because there are so many different causes of hair loss, I figured I’d take this little by little so as not to be overwhelming.
I’ll start with a common hair loss issue, telogen effluvium.
Before I begin, it is extremely important to know that hair shedding is a normal event for all humans and the telogen phase is a normal part of the hair’s life cycle.
Telogen effluvium is when a large number of hair follicles go into the resting phase simultaneously. There are three types of telogen effluvium with the most common being the result of unusual stress that the body has gone through. Telogen effluvium can often be experienced by individuals who have crash dieted, undergone weight loss surgery, or gone through some other event that has caused their body stress like illness. Although not exactly sudden, the individual may notice that their hair is thinning a couple of months after the event while grooming their hair (washing, blow drying, combing, etc).
The good news is that telogen effluvium does not affect the follicles and the condition will eventually reverse itself once the stressor is removed.
Another form of telogen effluvium is when the hair follicles don’t remain in the resting phase but the cyclical growth phase is so short that the individual will see shedding and the hairs that are shed will be shorter than usual (indicating an interrupted growth cycle).
A last form of telogen effluvium occurs more slowly and is characterized by follicles that enter into the resting phase in a standard manner but not re-enter the growth phase for an extended period of time. Therefore, although the individual may not notice constant shedding as in the stress-induced type, but thinning.
There are several causes of telogen effluvium. Besides the dietary deficiencies I mentioned earlier, life events like delivering a baby (post-partum shedding), trauma, and medications (both oral and intravenous) can cause the hair to go into the telogen phase. One possible offender that some may not realize is exposure to toxic chemicals. Even chronic conditions can trigger this (often disheartening) event.
I am commonly asked what can be done about this type of telogen effluvium. In general, the way to treat telogen effluvium is to treat the cause. Be patient and allow the body to return to its equilibrium by removing the offending stressor. For example, if crash dieting is the cause, a healthier diet that integrates more iron and other vitamins and minerals will help end telogen effluvium. If you recently gave birth, the hormonal shift will eventually return to its normal status and the hair should start to re-enter the growth phase. If medication is the culprit, get with your healthcare provider to seek options that do not have the same side effects.
If you cannot determine the cause of your hair loss, see a doctor (usually a dermatologist) and see if they can point to a cause. If they can’t, they may be able to prescribe something that can at stimulate hair growth however if the underlying cause is not removed, you’ll likely need to continue with the prescription in order to prevent the problem from recurring.
Next time, I’ll be blogging about anagen effluvium.
Until then, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.
*Photo courtesy of hairlosstreatment.com