Imagine losing your hair at a faster pace than normal, so much so that you appear to be balding on the top of your head. Panic would set in, right? You might assume the worst and that you have a disease that would cause the hair loss. That's the fear some people experience when they have a hair loss condition called telogen effluvium. Fear sets in that something is wrong with them, and they wonder if the hair loss can be reversed or it is simply something they have to live with. The good news is that there are answers for those who ask, "What is the treatment for telogen effluvium hair loss?" The bad news is it could take up to six months for hair to grow back to a normal level.
What Is Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss?
Losing your hair can be a devastating experience. In severe cases, there may be patches of missing hair or bald spots on top of the head. It can be an emotional time for people with telogen effluvium. It is not related to cancer or another life-threatening illness, however. Basically, the active hair follicles that grow hair comprise 80 to 90 percent of the head. They are in what is referred to as the anagen phase. The remaining follicles are in a resting state, known as the telogen stage. Though the hair loss generally happens on the top of the head, in severe cases, it also can affect other areas of the body. It can happen to both men and women, though middle-aged women and older are most likely to experience this condition.
An abnormal amount of follicles in the resting stage results in noticeable hair loss. A normal amount of hair loss is only 50-100 hairs, according to Dr. Ken Washenik from the North American Hair Research. "Approximately one out of every 10 scalp hairs is normally in telogen," he said. Finding clumps of hair on your pillow, on your clothes and in the drain is a sign that something is not right. Everyone has a few strands fall out throughout the day, but it is mass quantities that are cause for concern.
"If the number of hair follicles producing hair drops significantly for any reason during the resting, or telogen phase, there will be a significant increase in dormant, telogen stage hair follicles. The result is shedding, or TE hair loss," according to the American Hair Loss Association.
Though there is little research on telogen effluvium, and treatments are limited, it is the second most common cause of hair loss. The reason for the thinning hair is simply too many follicles in the resting phase at the same time, but the damage is not permanent, and it does grow back once the phase passes. "Normal shampooing can continue because this only loosens hairs that were going to come out anyway," according to Dr, Gary Cole. These follicles have white bulbs on the ends.
Triggers and Types of Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss
There are several types of telogen effluvium. Environmental factors are a type that is apparent within one to two months and can last up to six months. The second is a slow progression. This type lasts longer and is more noticeable due to a persistent trigger. The third is a cycle of thinning and growth, which does not stay dormant for long.
Triggers are anything that shocks the system, including:
- pregnancy; and
Lack of iron also may cause the hair follicles to go dormant.
Treatment for Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss
The treatment for telogen effluvium depends on the cause. If the trigger is stress, for example, the stress must be addressed to see hair growth improvement. Remember that people can shed hair during certain seasons, much like animals. So depending on where you live, it may take a season or two for your hair to return to the active phase.
Prescription drugs are commonly used to treat telogen effluvium hair loss. A dermatologist can prescribe something that stimulates the hair follicles.
A study published in the 2010 Dermotol Online Journal did a Medline search from 1955 to 2009, looking at the connection between vitamin D and hair loss. The results suggest that vitamin D may affect anagen initiation, thus treating hair loss.
The Emotional Impact of Hair Loss
Sometimes, treatment for telogen effluvium is as simple as waiting out the cycle of hair growth. This can be easier said than done because losing hair can be emotional for some. Waiting for it to grow back seems to take forever, and losing self-esteem is common.
Hair loss, in extreme cases, has a huge emotional impact. It can take a toll on a person's self-esteem because it clearly has an impact on how they look and feel. While using hats, scarves and wigs may help, they cannot replace the look and feel or real, natural hair. The stress and anxiety over losing hair is counteractive to re-growing the hair. According to a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, the best treatment is "primarily reassurance and counseling." The goal is to address the person's fears and concerns to make the adjustment more bearable.
More research is needed to understand telogen effluvium and the reason for the extreme hair loss. The cycles of hair growth need further explanation so better treatment plans can be established to help people who experience the stress of losing large quantities of hair. In the meantime, the most common treatment is no treatment at all. Waiting out the cycle of abnormally high dormant hair follicles is the best way to treat telogen effluvium hair loss.