Telogen Effluvium – Sudden hair loss

The name itself is quite suggestive, derived from a combination of 2 words- Telogen which refers to the falling phase of the hair and Effluvium which means to “evaporate”. Thus in this condition the hair fall is so rapid, that one can almost say that the hair simply “evaporates” from the head, leading to substantial thinning or baldness in a very short span of time.

Telogen effluvium is triggered when a major stress or hormonal change interrupts and stops the growth of some hairs. This causes a large number of hairs to enter the telogen or the resting phase all at once. It takes 1-3 months for the affected hairs to fall out after their growth has stopped. Telogen effluvium is therefore usually seen 1-3 months after a major stress to the body.

What causes Telogen Effluvium?

Some of the known triggers are –

After childbirth

Women typically complain of sudden hair loss in bunches which starts overnight. What causes the panic is that simply touching the hair also makes a lot of strands fall out, which is also referred in American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Acute stress with lack of sleep

As seen in students during exams. In such cases the hair loss develops suddenly almost overnight and in such high numbers that the hairs loss itself causes more stress to the patient.

After acute illness or accident or a major operation

The hair loss may start few months after the acute illness. For example let’s say you suffered from a severe flu attack or Typhoid in January and recovered from the same within 10 days. Your hair loss can then start anytime around April, at a time when you are actually in the best of health.

Crash dieting

You may have switched to a new diet and lost a certain number of Kilos. Your hair loss may start 1-3 months, much after you have resumed your normal diet.

Change of water or frequent travel

As seen in relocating out of hometown or frequent changes in water due to work related travel.

Often Telogen Effluvium may superimpose on other hair loss conditions worsening the situation. For example a person having hereditary tendency to hair loss has also been exposed to frequent travel to different locations. Frequent travel causes Telogen Effluvium, which then prematurely triggers the pre-existing heredity condition leading to baldness. This is why we see a lot of men and women prematurely balding, at a much younger age as compared to the age when their parents lost hair.

Most patients of Telogen Effluvium experience a lot of panic over the hair fall. However it is important to understand that unlike some other hair and scalp conditions, Telogen Effluvium is temporary and the hair growth usually recovers. After a short time, new hairs grow from the hair follicles as usual. A normal pattern and thickness of hair usually returns within a few months once these new hairs are established.

The treatment involves reversing the ratio of growing hair to resting hair to the normal 9:1, which in turn normalizes the hair fall.