What is Telogen Effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is an acute form of alopecia where there is dramatic hair loss and the hair becomes abnormally thin over the entire scalp.
Each hair on the head goes through three phases of development: anagen, when the hair is growing; catagen, a short, transition period; and telogen, when the hair is shed and the follicle rests for around 3 months.
Normally, only about 10% of hairs are in the telogen phase at any one time. This means that a few hairs are lost each day. But in telogen effluvium, an abnormal number of hairs enter the catagen and telogen phases, and so excessive numbers of hairs are shed at the same time.
What causes it?
Telogen effluvium can have a number of causes, any of which may disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. These include: stress, crash dieting, poor diet including iron deficiency, high fever, childbirth, thyroid and other endocrine disorders, contraceptive pill and implants, certain drugs and other chemical agents.
Symptoms and signs
There is considerable thinning and loss of hair across the entire head. The hair isn’t lost in patches, but over the entire scalp.
Since telogen effluvium occurs because of medical, physical or stressful events, recovery occurs once the root cause has been identified and addressed.
For example, if there is an iron deficiency in the diet, that can be treated with an iron supplement. If the condition occurs after childbirth or after fever, the hair will regrow normally in time.
Generally, telogen effluvium is a temporary condition and hair regrowth occurs within 6 months.
Why see a trichologist?
A trichologist will be able to make or confirm a diagnosis of telogen effluvium, and will be able to recommend appropriate action to take as is appropriate, for example changing diet. Importantly, a trichologist will be able to reassure sufferers that the condition will usually right itself in time.
It’s important not to confuse telogen effluvium with anagen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is a major disruption to the growing phase of the hair, often resulting in quick and complete hair loss.