Effluvium comes from the Latin root meaning flow out, and today is used to describe hair loss under a variety of conditions.
Telogen Effluvium (TE) is a reversible condition in which hair falls out after an episode of extreme stress, such as a surgery, childbirth, or a serious illness. The best news about Telogen Effluvium is that it is temporary. And in most cases, the lost hair grows back. But a doctor may be required so understand the symptoms and get help if needed.
Hair follicles do not grow hair continuously, but rather work in cycles. The telogen phase of hair growth is the scalp’s natural resting time, but can extend for too long by stress, creating hair loss. In a healthy scalp, the follicles cycle through their stages: the anagen growth phase (about two years), followed by telogen resting phase (about two months), before producing new hair strands. Normally, at least 85% of the follicles on your head are in the anagen state, growing hair at a normal rate.
The effect of stress on the scalp is that large numbers of hair follicles enter into a resting state. A follicle at rest for too long eventually becomes a loose follicle and the hair simply falls out. There is little research on the condition which is among the top causes of hair loss dermatologists see.
Distinct from Alopecia Areata, telogen effluvium affects hair growth differently. Whereas alopecia causes clumps or patches of hair to fall out, telogen effluvium usually leads to a more evenly diffused hair loss. While it may happen mostly on top or mostly in the back, the loss of hair will be much more evenly distributed. While this leads to fewer glaring bald patches, it can also make telogen effluvium harder to notice, often delaying diagnosis.
So what causes telogen effluvium and how can you avoid it? Simply put: avoid stresses to the body which is often easier said than done. For example, childbirth is an often-reported (and often inevitable) initial cause of TE. Traumatic events like an automobile crash or the death of a loved one can also bring about episodes of TE. These events tend to be unexpected and wholly unmanageable as a source of stress.
If you are experiencing TE while taking an antidepressant drug, speak with a doctor. This is often resolved by switching to a different antidepressant drug therapy.
When seeking treatment for TE, your doctor will help diagnose the causal factor that brought about TE in your case. If it is stress, the resolution will be to remove the source of stress or find ways to manage your outlook toward the stress-inducer. For those instances in which a dietary deficiency is the cause, your doctor may recommend dietary supplements or a lifestyle change. Or if you’ve had a recent event like a surgery or childbirth, your best treatment might be to wait a few months – many cases resolve in this way within a year.
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