Most of us will lose around a hundred hairs a day just through brushing and washing. It’s all part of our hair’s growth cycle.
Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that often occurs after a shock or a period of intense stress. It’s thought the natural rhythms of hair growing are interrupted because of the trauma and that this then leads to hair loss.
In cases of chronic telogen effluvium, a person may experience extreme symptoms. If you’re concerned you might have this condition, read on to find out more.
The Characteristics of Chronic Telogen Effluvium
Shedding or thinning of the hair is a symptom of this condition. A person who has chronic telogen effluvium will often experience periods of hair shedding for more than six months.
A person with this condition would not normally lose all their hair. The hair though may start to become noticeably thin. Telogen effluvium occurs more often in women. It is typically triggered by a disturbance in the hair cycle.
This cycle normally has three main phases. These are the anagen or growth phase.
Then follows the catagen or transitional phase, and finally the telogen or resting phase. Telogen effluvium can generally be reversible.
The Telogen Phase
Telogen effluvium is related to the telogen phase. Between five and ten percent of a person’s hair is in the telogen phase at any one time. In cases of telogen effluvium, the anagen phase slows down. That means fewer hairs enter the next two stages.
When a person experiences this condition, around a third of the hair follicles move into the telogen phase. That leads to hair shedding.
Symptoms and Causes
The main symptom of chronic telogen effluvium is a rise in the quantity of hair a person sheds over a sustained period of time. You might be aware of more hair than usual falling out when you wash or brush your hair.
There may also be an increase in the amount of hair in the drain or on your pillow. Interruptions in the hair cycle can be caused by lots of triggers. These include severe stress.
Prolonged periods of stress can set off telogen effluvium and cause it to become chronic. Hair loss will normally continue for several months after the stressful event.
Physical trauma such as experiencing a car crash can sometimes be a shock to the system. This can cause a proportion of scalp hair follicles to go into hibernation.
Diet and Vitamins
Hair needs some important nutrients to stay healthy. These include protein, iron, B-vitamins, and zinc. If there’s a lack of these nutrients in your diet, it may affect the quality and quantity your hair.
Sudden weight loss or chronic calorie restriction could also cause the condition. Chronic telogen effluvium is not uncommon in those who suffer from anorexia nervosa, for example.
If you are pregnant, more hair will stay in the growth phase for longer. Hormonal changes that happen a few months after giving birth can also cause hair to shed. This is known as post-partum telogen effluvium.
The hormonal changes that happen during menopause may also trigger telogen effluvium. It could also be brought on by certain medications or surgery.
Getting a Diagnosis
A physician would normally examine the hair and scalp to diagnose telogen effluvium. They would also look at any hairs that have fallen out.
There are a few tests that can be carried out to diagnose chronic telogen effluvium. For example, the diameter and length of the lost hairs can signal the condition. A hair pull test could also be carried out to see how much hair is being shed.
It may also be necessary to carry out a ‘wash test.’ The number of hairs lost during the washing process could then be counted.
A blood test might also be useful to help determine the cause of hair loss. These tests might show that there is an iron deficiency or thyroid insufficiency.
A dermatologist may also be able to diagnose telogen effluvium. They may take other indicators of hair health into account. These would include the appearance of the scalp, patches of baldness, or more generalized hair thinning.
Treatment for chronic telogen effluvium will to some extent depend on what is triggering the hair loss. Options include taking specialist supplements.
A change in diet may also be required to address any potential nutritional deficiencies. Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended for women experiencing menopause.
A person suffering from chronic telogen effluvium should avoid chemical or heat treatments which could damage the hair. Curling or perming the hair would come under this category too.
Time is often the biggest healer when it comes to recovering from chronic telogen effluvium. The best response could be to sit tight and wait for the follicles to recover of their own accord.
It is common for hair to grow back within three to six months once the cause has been dealt with. Cases of chronic telogen effluvium will tend to take a bit longer to recover from. Taking direct hair growth stimulators may help.
Occasionally, the rate of shedding slows down but does not end completely. In the majority of cases, no more than fifty percent of the hair would be lost.
In more serious cases, chronic telogen effluvium can affect other areas of the body such as the eyebrows or pubic region.
Protein, Diet, and Supplements
Protein makes the building blocks for hair to grow. Your diet should include plenty of protein-rich foods.
These include meat, eggs, fish, beans, grains, and nuts. The amino acid lysine could also be very important for hair growth.
Iron deficiency could also be linked to chronic telogen effluvium. Increasing the intake of iron-rich foods may help with hair loss. These include liver, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and lentils.
Supplements could also be considered until the nutritional status of the diet has improved.
The Road to Recovery
Once the root cause of chronic telogen effluvium has been established, the condition is much easier to treat. A combination of several types of therapy may be required for the best results.
Find out more here about how to rebuild thinning hair.