Telogen effluvium is a temporary type of hair loss generally caused by stress. The reason for this name is that the loss happens during the telogen or resting stage of the hair growth cycle. It presents as a sudden, widespread shedding of hair up to four times more than usual. The results are small, often circular bald patches on the scalp with no apparent design, unlike what occurs in permanent, “male pattern” baldness. Unlike pattern baldness, when the stressful situation is alleviated the hair will mostly grow back, usually within a year.
But before we dismiss this condition as harmless, keep in mind it ranks second in common causes of hair loss after Androgenetic Alopecia (genetic male pattern baldness). How does this occur in the body? Stress triggers a set of neuro-chemical events whereby the hair follicles get triggered to reroute their processes toward different biological functions, thus the task of hair growth is to some extent ignored.
If the body undergoes severe stress from an illness, nutritional deficiency or a traumatic experience, the rate of hair loss can speed up. There have been numerous cases where devastating loss has resulted in nearly total hair loss, except for the permanent ring of hair around the lower part of the head. These people, though, probably had the genetic make up for pattern balding, but experienced it very early due to the stressors.
For unknown reasons, women appear to be more sensitive to the effects of stress that causes telogen effluvium. Since they usually have more fragile miniaturized hair—hair with thinner than normal hair shaft diameter. Unlike men, though, women seldom develop complete pattern baldness.
Common causes of telogen effluvium include the following:
• Chronic illnesses such as cancer
• High fevers during an acute stage of illness
• Sudden changes in diet, especially during anorexia and bulimia or other extreme dieting
• Major surgery and general anaesthesia
• Medications that treat high blood pressure, cholesterol, or seizures
• Hormonal changes during childbirth or discontinuing birth control medication
• Major life changes such as a death in the family, job loss, or a divorce
Occasionally, hair transplant surgery can cause shock loss or localized telogen effluvium. Blood supply to surrounding follicles decreases while the body concentrates on the new transplanted hair. This condition usually only lasts for 2-3 months, is very rare, and only affects a few hairs so as to be generally unnoticeable.