Some hair loss conditions go by the name “effluvium.” The name means “a flowing out” and can affect different phases of the hair growth cycle. Specifically, effluviums affect the telogen and anagen phases. It is always important to understand the underlying causes of your hair loss so that the appropriate hair restoration method can be assigned. I encourage anyone dealing with hair loss to seek the assistance of one of our specialists by filling out the Request for Consult Form.
Hair grows in a three phase cycle. The first stage, anagen, is the active growth phase. The second stage, catagen, is the transitional phase. And telogen, the final stage, is the resting phase of hair growth.
When hair reaches the end of the growth cycle, it falls out naturally. Every day, a person looses about 25 to 100 telogen hairs. If more than 100 hairs are lost, a condition called telogen effluvium is taking place.
Telogen effluvium is a scalp disorder. It is characterized by an abundance of hair loss resulting from an early entry into the telogen phase of hair growth. The telogen hair that has been shed is recognized by the small bulb of keratin on the end of the root.
Very little research has been done to understand telogen effluvium. However, it has become the second most common form of hair loss that is brought to the attention of dermatologists. Doctors have noted that there is generally a diffused thinning along the scalp. The thinning may or may not be even across the scalp; it can be more significant in some areas. Also, hair loss is usually confined to the top of the scalp. Hairs are rarely lost at the sides, back or hair line.
In most cases, hair loss is solely on the scalp. However, in more serious cases, other areas – like eyebrows and eyelashes – may see loss as well. Wherever the hair loss occurs, the condition is completely reversible. Telogen effluvium does not permanently or irreversibly damage the follicle.
Three types of telogen effluvium:
1. An environmental issue shocks the system, causing hair follicles to enter the resting phase very quickly. This type of telogen effluvium happens rapidly and noticeable hair loss can occur one to two months after the shock. If the environmental issue is a single occurrence, hair follicles will return to their natural growth cycle fairly quickly (less than six months with normal hair density within a year).
2. A persistent trigger factor affects the hair growth cycle. Rather than returning to the anagen (active) phase, hair stays in the telogen phase for an extended period of time. Gradually there are more and more hairs in the telogen phase and fewer and fewer in the anagen phase. This form of telogen effluvium develops more slowly and persists longer. Additionally, instead of noticeable shedding, the hair density will gradually decrease.
3. Hairs cycle through a truncated growth pattern. This form of telogen effluvium is characterized by persistent shedding of short, thin hairs and minimal scalp density overall.
The most common instigators of telogen effluvium and ways to reverse its affect:
Telogen effluvium has a wide variety of causes:
Childbirth – Shortly after giving birth, many women experience what is called postpartum alopecia. The hormonal shock that is associated with childbirth causes the hair follicles to shut down for awhile. While shedding may be quite extensive, most women’s hair is re-grown quite quickly.
Environmental insults – Experiencing a physical trauma, having major surgery, or being in a car crash can cause hair follicles to go into hibernation. Typically, normal hair growth will resume once the body has recovered.
Medications – Some medications (especially antidepressants) may cause telogen effluvium. By switching to a different medication, hair growth can be restored.
Other medical conditions – One third of patients with thyroid disorder have telogen effluvium. Hormone supplements may help restore hair health.
Stress – Chronic and persistent stress is one of the most common causes of telogen effluvium. Stress reduction is a crucial, long-term solution to telogen effluvium.
Diet – Malnutrition and vitamin/mineral deficiencies are other common cause of telogen effluvium. Proper nutrition is necessary for good overall health – hair health included. A deficiency of zinc, amino acid L-lysine, iron, and vitamins B6 and B12 are all known to cause hair loss. Additionally, crash dieting is linked to telogen effluvium. An improved diet and nutritional supplements can help eradicate telogen effluvium and restore natural hair health.
Unlike telogen effluvium, the cause of anagen effluvium is specific to one particular instigator – cytostatic drugs. Cytostatic drugs are used to treat cancer. These drugs fight cancer by inhibiting rapid cell proliferation. Unfortunately, hair follicle cells are the most rapidly proliferating, noncancerous cells. Therefore, these cytostatic drugs cause the hair follicles to cease production.
The onset of anagen effluvium is very rapid; individuals who start cancer treatment may experience hair loss within two weeks. Unlike telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium patients will usually loose all their hair.
The cytostatic drugs do not permanently damage the hair follicle. A month after completing a treatment course, hair should start to grow. However, some people notice a change in the nature of the new hair. It may change from straight to curly (or vice versa). The color of the hair sometimes changes after cancer treatment too. Like it or not, these changes will be permanent!