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Understanding Telogen Effluvium

what is telogen effluvium

Not all types of hair loss are permanent or require hair restoration surgery to fix. The second most common cause of hair loss, telogen effluvium, isn’t permanent, for example. A number of different factors can lead to telogen effluvium, though the medical community doesn’t fully understand what triggers the condition. If your hair starts falling out throughout your scalp, it’s most likely due to telogen effluvium. The best course of action to treat this type of hair loss is to eliminate the cause.

What Telogen Effluvium Looks Like

Unlike other types of hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, which occurs on the top of the head or near the temples, or alopecia areata, which leads to patchy  hair loss, telogen effluvium can cause hair loss all over the scalp. You might lose more hair on the top of your head than the sides, but it’s unlikely that your hairline will recede if you have telogen effluvium.

The condition won’t cause complete hair loss. The degree of thinning varies from person to person. Some people might have a significant amount of thinning while others might lose less.

You can determine if your hair loss is related to telogen effluvium by looking at the strands of hair. Hairs that are shed due to the condition will have a small dot of keratin, a type of protein on the end with the root.

What Happens to the Hair

When you have telogen effluvium, the state of your hair changes. Normally, your hair goes through phases as it grows on your head. Usually, up to 90 percent of the hair on your head is in the active growing, or anagen phase. The rest of the hair on your head, up to 20 percent, is in the telogen phase.

Hair in the telogen phase has stopped growing temporarily. Instead, it’s biding its time, waiting for the appropriate moment to shed. Typically, hair is in the telogen phase for a few months before it sheds. Under normal circumstances, the hair you lose doesn’t cause noticeable thinning.

But, when you have telogen effluvium, a significant amount of your hair goes into the telogen phase, instead of the anagen phase. At first, you might not realize anything is wrong, as the hair remains on your head for a few months. But, after a time, you will start to shed the hair and the shedding will be more diffuse than usual.

What Causes It

The cause of telogen effluvium is often described as a “shock.” A major life change or health condition can lead to the condition, for example. Some women experience hair loss due to telogen effluvium a few months after giving birth, during menopause, or changing their birth control prescription.

The condition can also occur after a long illness or a high fever. Some people develop it because they are under an extreme amount of emotional or mental stress. Severe dietary changes, such as going on a juice diet or cutting out one type of food or another, can also trigger telogen effluvium.  Since it takes months for the hair loss to occur, a person might have recovered from the illness or stress or resumed a normal diet by the time hair loss happens.

Getting Help for It

In many cases, the treatment for telogen effluvium is to remove the trigger. The hair follicles will go back to their normal pattern of growth and rest once the trigger is gone. Hair lost due to telogen effluvium will ultimately grow back.

If  the condition is connected to an ongoing problem, a patient and doctor will need to identify the issue, then take steps to correct it. For example, if you’re constantly under high stress, you might discuss ways to relax and unwind with your doctor. If your diet is playing a role in your hair loss, you doctor might recommend nutrients to take to help restore your hair.

Virginia Beach hair restoration specialist Dr. Kyle Choe can answer any questions you have about telogen effluvium and about other causes of hair loss. Call his practice, the Choe Center for Hair Restoration, at (757) 389-5850 for a consultation today.

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