Hair Telogen Effluvium

Hair Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a form of alopecia (hair loss) in which the hair thins and eventually falls out. In many cases large amounts of hair are lost which is highly distressing to the sufferer.

There are two forms of telogen effluvium acute and chronic. The acute version lasts for a shorter period of time than the chronic form which in some cases, can continue for more than 6 months.

What does 'telogen effluvium' mean?

The word telogen is derived from the Greek 'telos' and means 'end'. Plus telogen is the third phase in the normal hair growth cycle in which hair is shed (lost) following the resting phase.

The word 'effluvium' means an 'outpouring'.

So telogen effluvium means an outflow of hair which is in the end stage of the hair growth cycle.

Problem in hair growth cycle

There is a disruption to the normal hair growth cycle which causes the hairs to enter the shedding (telogen) stage much earlier than usual. Find out more about the hair growth cycle in our causes of hair loss section.

An example of this is when someone experiences a period of extreme stress which results in their hair falling out. This stress leads to the majority of hair follicles to enter a prolonged shedding stage which leads to major hair loss.

Temporary form of hair loss

However, this condition is temporary: once the source of the hair loss has been treated, normal hair growth takes place. This occurs several months following treatment.

Difference between telogen effluvium and other hair loss conditions

This condition affects both men and women but is less visible to the onlooker than other hair loss conditions. Telogen effluvium is characterised by thinning hair but, it does not result in bald patches on the scalp.

If you suffer from this condition you will notice a loss of hair especially when washing your hair. But your remaining hair will continue to look healthy as will the condition of your scalp.

This condition can affect hair on the body as well although it is mostly confined to the scalp.

Causes of telogen effluvium

This condition has several causes which include:

  • Stress: telogen effluvium occurs 2 to 3 months following a period of chronic stress.
  • Eating disorders, e.g. anorexia nervosa
  • Anaemia
  • Under active thyroid
  • Major surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic illnesses, e.g. liver disease

Anything which causes severe emotional stress will result in this condition.

How is telogen effluvium diagnosed?

This involves a discussion of your symptoms, a physical examination and series of tests which include a trichoscopy. A trichoscopy is where the condition of the scalp and hair is closely examined using a special video imaging system. This system contains a set of magnifying scopes which when placed over the scalp; focus on a particular area, e.g. patch of hair loss.

The magnified images are viewed on a computer.

However, it is possible to self diagnose this condition by pulling out a small bunch of hairs and checking the number of hairs. Normally, you will pull out just a couple of hairs when you give your scalp a quick tug as only a small percentage is in the telogen stage.

But, if you notice a large handful of hairs then it is likely that you are experiencing telogen effluvium.

Treatment for telogen effluvium

It develops as a result of an undiagnosed condition such as anaemia or chronic stress which needs to be dealt with. Once the cause of the problem has been treated normal hair growth will resume.