There are many different forms of hair loss and at The Griffin Center of Hair restoration and Research we make an effort to understand and treat them all. Some, like the various forms of cicatricial or scarring alopecia, can permanently damage the hair follicles and cause hair loss that can only be treated with follicular unit transplantation techniques. Others, however, may appear to be just as serious but are actually only temporary and easily treatable. One of these latter types of hair loss is telogen effluvium, the second most common form of hair loss that our dermatologists generally see.
Hair follicles on the scalp progress through a regular growth cycle consisting of three stages: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transition phase), and telogen (resting phase). At any given time, 80% to 90% of the hair is in the anagen phase, when new hair is formed and gradually grows from the follicle. The rest of the hairs are either in the transitional catagen phase, when growth stops, or the telogen stage, when the hair loosens in the follicle and subsequently falls out. This means that a healthy scalp naturally sheds anywhere from 50 to 100 telogen hairs each day. However this loss is typically replaced by newly growing hair and so generally goes unnoticed. Telogen effluvium occurs when external factors disrupt this natural cycle, forcing a disproportionately large number of hair follicles into the telogen phase all at once. Approximately six weeks to three months after the initial triggering event, these telogen hairs shed just as they normally would, but in much greater numbers. Patients suffering from full-blown telogen effluvium may potentially lose entire handfuls of hair at a time.
Unfortunately, the mechanisms that trigger telogen effluvium are poorly understood. Any physiological shock to the body, such as a traumatic injury, major surgery, or even a crash diet can precipitate an outbreak. Moreover, severe and prolonged psychological stress can often mirror the symptoms of physical shock, and many patients have experienced telogen effluvium after the death of a loved one or a particularly emotional divorce. Additionally, there are other forms of telogen effluvium that develop more slowly and last longer, seemingly in response to a more persistent triggering factor and still others that seem to develop as a side effect of another disease or even without any readily apparent cause whatsoever.
Patients do not go completely bald from telogen effluvium and the hair loss is usually temporary. If an external cause is discovered and dealt with, the follicles go right back to producing hair normally, and in most cases those affected recover as much as 90% of the hair lost. Where a specific causal factor cannot be determined, Extra-Strength Rogaine® (5% minoxidil) or one of our custom-formulated topical compounds can be prescribed to minimize further hair loss and help stimulate new hair growth until the underlying trigger can be addressed. Every patient is unique, and telogen effluvium is only one of the potential causes for temporary or permanent hair loss, so please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration to schedule a consultation with Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis in order to get a complete and comprehensive diagnosis of your individual alopecia so that we can determine exactly what treatment options will best suit your specific needs. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.