Stages of hair growth

Your telogen effluvium treatment and potential cure will depend on its cause and severity.
Your telogen effluvium treatment and potential cure will depend on its cause and severity.

Telogen effluvium is one of many hair loss conditions involving an effluvium, or outflow, of hair follicles. Telogen effluvium occurs when the body goes through some sort of shock or change that forces more hairs to fall out than normal.

The hair on a human head goes through two stages. The first is when the hair is actively growing, known as the anagen phase. This lasts for about two to four years. 

The second stage is when the hair goes dormant before falling out. This is called the telogen phase. This phase lasts between two to four months. 

It is normal to lose about 100 hairs per day during the telogen stage. Telogen effluvium can increase this loss to around 300 hairs per day. This condition is not permanent and is fully reversible. In most cases, hair grows back naturally within six to nine months.

What is telogen effluvium?

If you have telogen effluvium, you may notice that you are losing more hair than usual. You may find it on your pillowcase, in the shower, or after brushing your hair. In some cases, the loss of hair will be quite noticeable. In others it might not be sufficient enough to leave bald spots.

Telogen effluvium appears as a light thinning of your hair, usually on top of the scalp. The shed hairs can be recognized as telogen hairs if they still have a small bulb of keratin on the root end.

There are many reasons that might cause you to develop telogen effluvium. You might be experiencing metabolic stress or changes in your hormone levels. Certain medications can cause telogen effluvium. Other triggers include:

This type of hair loss can occur in people of all ages, genders, and racial backgrounds. It tends to be more common in women. 


Diagnosis for telogen effluvium?

Only a licensed health care professional can diagnose telogen effluvium. Your doctor can typically diagnose the condition with an examination of your hair and scalp and a review of your medical history. 

If the hair loss has been going on for a few months, there may be visible thinning patches. More often, the hair loss is not sufficient enough for a doctor to notice.

Large, bald patches are not normally a sign of telogen effluvium. If the doctor gently tugs on some hairs on your scalp and several hairs come out, you probably have telogen effluvium. Your doctor might instruct you to collect all of your hair that falls out within a 24-hour period and report back. A loss of fewer than 100 hairs is considered normal.

In some cases, the hair loss you are experiencing could be another form of effluvium­ called anagen effluvium. This is similar to telogen effluvium, but it develops more quickly. It can also cause significantly more, if not complete, hair loss. 

Anagen effluvium is more frequently seen in people who are taking certain drugs to treat cancer. People who have ingested a toxic product like rat poison also experience it.  

Treatments for telogen effluvium

Your telogen effluvium treatment and potential cure will depend on its cause and severity. If your hair loss began following a surgical procedure, the best response is to wait for the hair follicles to regrow. Waiting for regrowth is the most common treatment for short-term cases of telogen effluvium.

For the persistent loss of hair due to telogen effluvium, your doctor can help you identify the cause. For example, a poor diet can be adjusted to include more vitamins and minerals and aided with dietary supplements

If you believe your hair loss is related to stress, implementing a stress-reduction strategy for your life can be beneficial. Meditating or taking yoga classes, for example, can help greatly reduce your stress levels.

If these preventive care measures do not succeed, your doctor may recommend a few prescriptions. Most dermatologists prescribe minoxidil, a direct-hair growth stimulant. This can work well for some individuals. 

If the underlying reason for your hair loss is not addressed, minoxidil or other prescriptions will be temporary solutions. Work with your doctor to treat the cause of your telogen effluvium.

Possible complications and side effects

Some antidepressants and other medications can trigger hair loss. A sudden or abrupt change in your diet or lifestyle may be responsible for your telogen effluvium. 

Certain medications and over-the-counter treatments and supplements may have different side effects. Consult with your doctor if you are experiencing more hair loss than normal. Your health care provider will help you identify its cause and avoid potential complications while you find a solution.


Your Hair and Scalp Can Say a Lot About Your Health See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 3/9/2021

American Hair Loss Association: "Effluviums."

Harvard Medical School: "Telogen Effluvium."

Stat Pearls: "Telogen Effluvium."