Telogen effluvium – what is it and how to combat it?
We all lose a certain amount of hair strands each day. But if these lost strands start looking like a large bunch in your hands, it is time to analyse your situation and determine what the cause of the hair loss is. This matter should not be taken lightly as you may be suffering from telogen effluvium (TE) which we will be discussing in the following article.
Telogen effluvium and the phases of hair follicles
This disease temporarily affects the scalp and manifests itself in increased hair thinning and balding. In order to understand what happens during telogen effluvium, we need to first detail the phases of a single hair follicle.
Typically, a hair follicle goes through three phases. During the anagen or growth phase, the hair strand of the follicle grows in length. Next comes the catagen phase which marks the transition of the anagen phase to the telogen phase of the hair follicle.
The third phase is called the telogen or resting phase during which the hair strand associated with the follicle stops growing and falls off after a certain period.
At any given point of time, about 5-10% of a person’s hair is in the telogen phase. Telogen effluvium is the end result of the disturbance in the hair cycle where the anagen phase slows down pushing off an increased number of hairs into the telogen phase and which eventually fall off.
The person suffering from this disorder, therefore, starts losing hair predominantly from the centre and top of the head, which can lead to alopecia.
The female population is more commonly affected by this condition. However, TE is different from alopecia areata since it is reversible and resolves on its own once the cause has been addressed. Alopecia areata is a genetic disorder that leads to complete baldness.
What are the main causes of telogen effluvium?
There are numerous factors that can result in TE:
- the primary factor that triggers it is prolonged stress which can happen in the form of a traumatic experience, serious illness, surgery or simply continuous everyday stress. Although hair loss may not be sudden and immediate, it can be visible ca.3 months after the stressful episode.
- micro and macronutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 play a crucial role in hair growth. Therefore, a deficiency of any of these nutrients may trigger telogen effluvium.
- hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth may lead to this condition. Typically, the anagen phase becomes longer during pregnancy leading to an increase in the hair volume. Three to six months after childbirth, this hair falls off. Thyroid disorders can also affect the thickness and quantity of hair. During menopause, most women experience TE due to fluctuations in their hormone levels.
- medications such as antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, and oral contraceptives can act as a trigger for this condition.
Sudden weight loss:
- crash dieting again leads to deficiencies in various nutrients which, in turn, can result in acute telogen effluvium wherein more than fifty per cent of the hair volume falls out resulting in alopecia.
- contact with certain metals or metal toxicity is also sometimes the triggering factor of this condition.
Symptoms and types of telogen effluvium
The most common symptom of the disorder is unusually excessive hair fall. A person affected by TE will notice more hair strands in their combs and on their pillows.
Sometimes, the person’s scalp may become itchy and flaky. While the hair on the scalp is predominantly affected by this condition, hair loss can also be noticeable in other areas on the body.
Even on the scalp, the hair loss may seem to have a pattern, for example, a more severe shedding on the central part of the head.
TE usually lasts about 6 months. The effect of stress (or other cause of telogen effluvium) on the body is usually visible only after two to three months after the episode.
If the cause is eliminated, the hair cycle returns to normal within 3 to 6 months. Telogen effluvium can also affect the hair structure.
TE not only causes hair to fall from the head but also affects the thickness of a single hair strand. The thickness or volume of hair strands decreases considerably giving a thinned out appearance to the individual’s hair.
Chronic telogen effluvium
Chronic TE is a condition where periodic hair shedding is observed for more than six months. It can also manifest itself as an early stage of male or female pattern baldness.
Telogen effluvium on other body parts
TE primarily affects the scalp hair, more often on the central area of the head compared to the back and the sides of the head. Rarely, it may cause eyebrow hair to fall out too. In very severe cases it can make other body parts lose their hair as well.
What is the cure for telogen effluvium?
The treatment of telogen effluvium depends on the root cause of the problem. Your dermatologist may require samples of the shed hairs to determine whether they are in the telogen phase.
These hair roots are bulb-like formations made of keratin. As for anagen (active) phase hairs, they have a tapered end and might be an indicator of anagen effluvium instead. Anagen effluvium comes as a result of radiation treatment, chemotherapy, toxins and some drugs.
Sometimes, skin samples from the scalp are harvested to analyse the condition of hair follicles. Moreover, blood tests are required to rule out an iron deficiency. A thorough history must be taken by your dermatologist to determine possible stress factors that may be the actual culprit behind this condition.
Can telogen effluvium be treated?
Based on the investigations, the following treatment may be prescribed:
- if the cause of telogen effluvium is stress, then the long term treatment will involve the elimination of stress with the help of meditation and yoga. Here the patient must adopt major lifestyle changes that need to be followed long-term.
- if a single event, such as surgery or trauma of any form, is the responsible factor for it, then the only way to resolve the problem is to ‘wait and watch’ and give your hair enough time to recover from the shock and get into their normal cycle. It is also advisable to use special hair care products that stimulate hair growth, for example, Dr Balwi shampoo. Such products do not need to be prescribed by a doctor and work best if hair loss is not severe or chronic.
- hormonal imbalances such as thyroid dysfunction need to be addressed and appropriate medication will be needed to cure them.
- nutritional deficiencies of amino acids, iron, vitamins, and minerals should be treated by following a balanced diet and the use of supplements but only after the doctor’s consultation. To properly nourish your hair, the treatment can be complemented with special hair care products that are rich in vitamins and other active ingredients.
Can minoxidil be used to treat it?
Minoxidil can only temporarily delay hair fall but not completely stop it if the cause of TE has not been tackled. For example, if stress is the causative factor of TE, once minoxidil treatment has been stopped, the hair will start falling out again. But if the underlying problem has been tackled, the patient can stop using minoxidil.
Conclusion: ensuring proper hair care during and after telogen effluvium
Whatever the treatment in your case is, it is essential to use natural products for your hair as much as possible. Our hair care products are ideal to combat telogen effluvium and contain all-natural components, such as biotin, aloe vera, caffeine and various extracts: hops, green tea, birch leaf, millet, and horsetail.
These ingredients combined with our hair root strengthening formula offer a comprehensive nutrient content that is necessary to stimulate hair growth.
Do you have more questions or are you suffering from hair loss issues? Then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team that will answer all your queries. Furthermore they can also propose a free and non binding hair analysis!