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What is Telogen Effluvium?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that usually results from physiological stresses, such as a severe infection or direct trauma to the body. Its onset is usually acute, meaning that significant amounts of hair begin to fall out at once, and shedding can last for about three months. Telogen effluvium is considered a temporary condition, and hair stops falling out when the stresses on the body are relieved. An individual who experiences sudden hair loss should visit his or her doctor to check for potential underlying health conditions and receive the appropriate treatment.

Healthy hair goes through a natural cycle of growth and resting phases. The growth phase is called anagen, and it lasts for about three years at a time. Telogen, the resting phase where some hairs shed, usually lasts about three months. Individual hairs go through the phases at different times, so hair loss is typically not significant enough to notice. Telogen effluvium causes a large portion of hair to enter the resting phase all at once, leading to obvious hair loss.

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It is usually unclear exactly what makes a person's hair fall out, but doctors have correlated telogen effluvium with stress on the body. Trauma, severe illnesses, malnutrition, and certain medications can lead to telogen effluvium. People who experience sudden hormonal changes, as are common with pregnancy and glandular disorders such as hypothyroidism, can also begin to shed their hair. In addition, some studies show psychological stress from a traumatic experience or loss of a loved one may lead to hair loss.

An individual who notices significant hair loss should make an appointment with his or her doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. In most cases, it is easy for a doctor to distinguish telogen effluvium from other types of hair loss by carefully inspecting the hairs that come out with a brush. Telogen hairs are generally drier than growing hairs and have a white residue at the base. The physician may decide to take a scalp biopsy or perform blood tests to look for underlying causes.

Most cases of telogen effluvium last less than six months, and hair starts to regrow without medical treatment. If a person is suffering from another condition, however, he or she may need to take medications or make dietary changes to prevent long-term hair loss. A patient might be prescribed antibiotics, hormone replacements, or dietary supplements to promote health. With an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment, most people do not experience recurring telogen effluvium.

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