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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Telogen effluvium (TE) is one of the most common forms of hair loss. It’s also one of the most noticeable, thanks to how much hair is lost when living with this condition.
While women typically experience TE more on average (thanks to things like postpartum hormonal changes), men of all ages and racial backgrounds can also be affected.
This is why it’s a good idea to have some information about this disease.
We’ll be using this guide to examine the symptoms, causes and most trusted treatment methods for managing telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss caused by stress or a shock to the system. It’s technically a scalp disorder that stands out for excessive hair shedding.
To have a proper understanding of this condition, it’s important to take a very quick class on the stages of hair growth.
The hair goes through three main cycles of hair growth:
Anagen. This is the active stage of growth where the hair stretches to its full length
Catagen. Here, the hair transitions from growing to a resting stage
Telogen. The telogen phase is a dormant stage where the hair remains in place without growth.
The last stage is often cited, known as the exogen — or shedding — phase.
These are just the basics. If you want to have more in-depth info on these cycles of hair growth, you can find them in our guide, How Does Hair Grow: The Hair Growth Cycle Explained.
Cycling back to TE, like we mentioned, this condition is triggered when some form of stress causes hairs still in the process of growing (anagen stage), to zoom past and enter the resting or telogen phase of hair growth.
This usually has a very unwanted effect, where those telogen hairs stop growing for about one to six months — although it usually takes an average of three months.
The whole time this is happening, the person experiencing this change is usually clueless.
That is, until the hairs re-enter the growth phase, bumping the telogen hairs away from the hair follicle.
When this happens, a lot of telogen hairs are shed — sometimes up to 50 percent — making for a noticeable missing portion of hair.
If you’ve been noticing a worrying amount of hairs littering your pillows, floor, clothing or hair brush, you may be experiencing telogen effluvium symptoms. Note that telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia is different.
Here’s what to look out for:
A considerable loss in hair. Telogen effluvium causes a very noticeable reduction in hair volume.While it’s normal to lose around 50 to 100 strands of hair daily, this number could be much higher with this condition.
Tender scalp: in addition to losing hair, this disorder could also cause some pain, which you may notice when touching the skin of your scalp, or your hair. This is caused by a condition called trichodynia.
Where these symptoms persist for less than three months, you probably have a case of acute telogen effluvium.
But should you experience this super dramatic form of hair loss for more than six months, that’s typically a sign of chronic TE.
Usually, telogen effluvium occurs around two months after the body has been exposed to a shock or trigger. These triggers can be any number of things.
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Around 50 percent of your hair doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to fall out. For telogen effluvium to occur, serious triggers are usually to blame. These include:
Many medications can trigger the hair into a premature telogen phase.
They include androgens, retinoids, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anticoagulants and ACE inhibitors, which are used for managing blood pressure and heart failure.
Before you clear out your medicine cabinet, you should know that this adverse effect is typically noticed after about 12 weeks of using these drugs.
When your body goes through a particularly traumatizing encounter, this can increase your chances of developing telogen effluvium.
This includes circumstances such as a serious surgical procedure, high fevers, chronic illnesses, and haemorrhages.
In some cases, medical conditions may be responsible for your hair loss.
These include disorders such as hypo and hyperthyroidism where the thyroid gland under and overperforms respectively.
It may also be the result of kidney failure, inflammatory bowel disease, liver failure and others.
You may be experiencing hair loss brought on by TE because your plate routinely misses some very key elements.
When your diet is consistently lacking nutrients like protein, fatty acids or zinc, this could contribute to hair loss.
In rare cases, a biotin deficiency may also be responsible for telogen effluvium.
Likewise, you’ll be leaving yourself open to hair loss when you observe a restrictive intake of calories, or where you frequently starve yourself.
Other suspected causes of telogen effluvium include ultraviolet light, but scientists are still trying to figure out whether or not sunlight can damage hair cuticles.
Where this happens, it may increase the chances of excessive hair shedding.
There’s also a chance that emotional distress could lead to hair loss, but it’s a little hard to say how true this might be.
The good news about telogen effluvium is that this condition usually goes away all by itself.
In fact, as high as 95 percent of all cases of acute telogen effluvium go into remission.
However, in cases where this condition is not resolved within the expected time, you may adopt the following treatment methods:
Where a nutrient deficiency is to blame for all the extra hairs you’ve had to clean up around your home, telogen effluvium may be remedied by enjoying nutrients in their correct and healthy proportions.
In those very rare cases where a biotin deficiency is to blame for this condition, supporting your body’s supply of this vitamin with trusted hair loss supplements can help with treating hair loss.
And beyond nutrients, making sure your body stays at a healthy weight can also improve your odds of managing hair loss.
One of the FDA’s approved treatments for hair loss, minoxidil, helps to counter hair loss by providing the best environment for hairs to grow.
This means it works the hardest to ensure that your hair receives the necessary nutrients, oxygen and blood needed to thrive.
Minoxidil is available as a liquid solution or in a foam formulation.
Learn more about this treatment in our guide, How Long Before Minoxidil Starts Working.
This medication gets the job done by blocking hormones that are commonly responsible for hair loss. Finasteride is available as a tablet, but it’s the kind that requires a prescription before you can get your hands on it.
When a trusted healthcare provider examines your condition and determines that this medication is a good fit for you, we have you covered for easy access to finasteride.
In cases where telogen effluvium is the result of inflammation in the body, corticosteroids can help with managing this development.
They’re also a convenient way to reduce the pain that can sometimes accompany telogen effluvium.
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Hair loss is never fun. This is especially true with a condition like telogen effluvium, where you're left watching a significant portion of your hair fall out over a short period of time.
While factors like drugs and illnesses may be responsible for this condition, you can simply sit back and watch your hair restore itself naturally, or you may speed up the process with trusted hair loss treatments like minoxidil and finasteride.
Whatever option you choose, It's always for the best to hear what your healthcare provider has to say before making any big decisions. To learn more, check out our article on regaining hair loss from stress.
If you'd like to learn more about hair loss, check out our guide on the most common form of this condition — male pattern baldness.