What is Telogen Effluvium?

Telogen effluvium (TE) is when a large amount of hair follicles are affected by an external factor that is not genetic. The result is an abnormal amount of hair thinning or loss.

Telogen Effluvium and the Telogen Phase

Ordinarily, the telogen phase lasts only for a short duration compared to the other two phases of hair growth, which are anagen and catagen. The telogen phase is a brief period of rest before the hair follicle begins producing hair again in the anagen phase. If there is large disruption in this process, however, it can be due to the disorder known as telogen effluvium.

What Happens During Telogen Effluvium?

There are three types of telogen effluvium:

  • Environmental – This type of TE has a rapid onset and usually can be noticed a number of months after the trigger. The recovery from this type of telogen effluvium takes up to a year before the hair regains its normal volume and density.
  • Prolonged telogen phase – This form typically causes a thinning of hair on top of the head as opposed to shedding, though it can include shedding as well. It is more gradual than the first form of TE, but normally lasts longer as fewer and fewer hairs are able to enter the anagen phase.
  • Shorter growth cycles – This is a disruption of hair follicle growth itself. The telogen phase is when new hair follicles appear and grow downward into the scalp. This instance of TE, however, causes the hair follicles to go through shortened growth cycles. As a result, the hair produced is drastically shorter and thinner than normal.

Is Telogen Effluvium Permanent?

No, this is a usually a temporary disorder that is reversible with time. With that said, it can still take a number of weeks or months to recover from.

What Causes Telogen Effluvium?

TE is always caused by an external source. Common causes are hormonal imbalance after childbirth, poor diet approach, chronic illness, extreme stress, and certain medications such as antidepressants, vaccinations, etc. Usually removing the environmental stressor is enough to solve the problem. However, sometimes identifying the stressor can be difficult. There may be multiple stressors, or they may appear at seemingly random intervals.

Can Telogen Effluvium Return?

Yes. If you experience multiple times, or if it lasts longer than six months, it is then classified as chronic TE. Your doctor may choose to prescribe medication if the telogen effluvium is persistent. Minoxidil, for example, stimulates hair growth so long as it is taken regularly.

How Can My Doctor Identify That I Have Effluvium?

Your doctor may request blood tests or a scalp biopsy. If your symptoms persist after removing any potential external factors, you may want to consider other causes besides telogen effluvium. Other forms of alopecia can sometimes appear as telogen effluvium in the early stages.

Is Telogen Effluvium a Painful Condition?

Not always. There have been some reports of pain or tingling in the scalp when shedding hair due to telogen effluvium. Most cases, however, involve absolutely no pain whatsoever.

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