Telogen Effluvium Treatment
Some hair loss conditions go by the name “effluvium,” which means an outflow. Telogen effluvium hair loss characteristically affect different phases of the hair growth cycle. Hair follicles on the scalp do not continuously produce hair. They cycle through a growth stage that can last two or more years, then regress to a resting stage for up to two months before starting to grow a new hair fiber again. At any time on a healthy human scalp, about 80% to 90% of the hair follicles are growing hair. These active follicles are in what is called the anagen phase. That leaves up to 10% to 20% percent of scalp hair follicles in a resting state called telogen, when they don’t produce any hair fiber.
No treatment is needed for most cases of telogen effluvium hair loss. Remember that the hairs fall out when a new hair growing beneath it pushes it out. Thus with this type of hair loss, hair falling out is a sign of hair regrowth. As the new hair first comes up through the scalp and pushes out the dead hair a fine fringe of new hair is often evident along the forehead hairline. The most important issue in telogen effluvium is to determine if an underlying cause for the problem is present. Blood tests may need to be done if the cause is not obvious, such as mild iron deficiency. If the telogen effluvium is caused by a medication, the medication needs to be stopped. When the cause of the hair loss is something like giving birth, a transient illness, or other self-limited problem the induced telogen effluvium is also usually self-limited and requires no treatment.
Chronic telogen effluvium hair loss is recently recognized and not uncommon. It often occurs in women who previously had very thick hair in their teens and twenties and still have an apparently normal head of hair to a casual observer. It affects the entire scalp with no obvious cause apparent. It usually affects women of 30 to 60 years of age, starts suddenly and has a tendency to fluctuate for a period of years. The degree of shedding is usually severe in the early stages and the hair may come out in handfuls. It does not cause complete baldness and does appear to be self-limiting in the long run. What are the trigger factors for TE? The short answer is many and varied. Classic short-term TE often happens to women soon after giving birth. Called postpartum alopecia, the sudden change in hormone levels at birth is such a shock to the hair follicles that they shut down for a while. There may be some significant hair shedding, but most women regrow their hair quickly.
Similarly, vaccinations, crash dieting, physical trauma such as being in a car crash, and having surgery can sometimes be a shock to the system and a proportion of scalp hair follicles go into hibernation. As the environmental insult passes and the body recovers, the telogen effluvium hair loss subsides and there is new hair growth. Some drugs may also induce TE, especially antidepressants. Often a switch to a different drug resolves the issue.