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Telogen Effluvium

It is normal to lose around 100 hairs a day on your comb, brush, in the sink or on the pillow. At any given time, about 85% to 90% of the hairs on an average person's head grow actively (called the anagen phase) while others are resting (called the telogen phase). This is called the normal hair growth cycle. A hair is, typically, in the anagen phase for 2 – 4 years; then it enters the telogen phase, rests for around 2 – 4 months, then falls out and is replaced by a new, growing hair. Hairs will grow for a few years, then rest for a couple months, shed, and regrow. The name of the resting stage of the hair growth cycle is Telogen. Telogen effluvium is when hair roots are pushed prematurely into the resting state as a result of stress. The condition can be acute or chronic.

In telogen effluvium sufferers, some body change or shock 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. So if you have telogen effluvium, you may lose an average of 300 hairs a day instead of 100.

Causes of Telogen effluvium

There are a number of causes for telogen effluvium. Among the commonest are high fevers, childbirth, severe infections, severe chronic illness, iron deficiency, extreme change in diet, severe psychological stress, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism major surgery or illnesses, over or under active thyroid gland, crash diets with inadequate protein, and a number of medications. Most hair loss resulting from medications is this type. The causes include retinoids, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants, and NSAIDS (including ibuprofen).

Symptoms of Telogen effluvium

A lot of hair shedding normally occurs when shampooing, combing, or even when gently manipulating hair. Hence, telogen effluvium sufferers will notice more hair than usual accumulating on the pillowcase, in the shower or bathroom floor and in the hairbrush. The scalp hair might feel or look less dense than normal. Oftentimes, the hair loss could be subtle, and others might not notice anything different about your hair.

Typically, Telogen effluvium hair loss is noticed several weeks to several months after the incident has initiated the biologic program for hair loss. Some individuals may also notice hair loss elsewhere on the body although most often hair loss occurs on the scalp,. Generally shedding slowly reduces over 6 – 8 months once the cause of hair disappears.

Prevention of Telogen effluvium

Very little or nothing can be done to stop the majority of the types of physical shock that could trigger telogen effluvium. In some cases it might be the result of poor diet. These cases may be prevented by having a balanced diet that provides sufficient protein, iron and other nutrients.

Treatment of Telogen effluvium

For most cases of telogen effluvium no treatment is needed. The hairs drop when a new hair growing under it pushes it out. So, with this type of hair loss, it is a sign of hair regrowth. As new hair first pushes up through the scalp and comes out the dead hair a fine fringe of new hair is often evident along the forehead hairline.

In case the hair loss started subsequent to a new medication, consult your doctor to find out if it should be discontinued. However, a lot of times, the cause is a specific event in the past. Hence, you can expect the hair to grow back. In cases where hair growth has not returned to a satisfactory level, the doctor could prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine). This is a lotion that is applied to the scalp that stimulates hair growth in some people.