Hair Shedding / Breakage

Hair Shedding (Telogen Effluvium)

If your hair loss has only been present for 6 or fewer months, you should consider seeing your doctor to rule out other causes of hair loss. Telogen effluvium is the term used to describe a temporary form of hair loss that results 3-6 months after any sort of major physiologic change to the body.

These are the most common causes of telogen effluvium:

Post-Pregnancy: The most common form of temporary hair loss results after childbirth. Instead of shedding during pregnancy, resting telogen hairs remain in the scalp. This results in thick, luxurious hair during pregnancy. However, 3-6 months after the baby is born, telogen hairs will finally be released from the scalp, all at once! This can result in a massive shed that can be very distressing and result in quite noticeable thinning. Women can be reassured that after another 6-12 months their hair will usually grow back in. If it does not, they may have some underlying female pattern hair loss that has been unmasked by the telogen effluvium.

Learn More About Hair Loss in Women

Surgeries & General Anesthesia: Undergoing any sort of surgery, especially with general anesthesia, can result in temporary hair shedding 3-6 months afterward. If you are in this situation, you may allow another 6-12 months for the hair shedding to resolve. It usually does so on its own and requires no treatment.

High Fever/Prolonged Illness: Any person who suffers from a very high fever or experiences a prolonged illness even requiring hospitalization may develop hair shedding 3-6 months later. This is because the body’s resources are directed toward survival and accessory appendages like hair and nails can sometimes suffer. Regrowth of hair and normalization of nail growth usually occurs 6-12 months later.

Crash Dieting: The loss of a large amount of weight in a short amount of time, or any sudden caloric deprivation can also result in hair shedding. If you are in this situation, make sure you are maintaining a well-rounded diet with all the necessary nutrients your body needs. Also be sure you are losing weight gradually and not too rapidly. By working with a certified nutritionist you should be able to avoid any unwanted hair shedding during the weight loss process.

Medical Problems: There are a number of medical problems that have been linked with hair shedding:

• Changes in thyroid hormone function (hyper-or hypo-thyroidism) can result in hair shedding. If you are having other symptoms such as heat or cold intolerance, rapid heartbeat, feelings of lethargy, or weight gain or weight loss, you may need to have some blood tests done to examine your thyroid function.

Low iron stores have been linked (but not proven) to cause hair loss. There is still debate in the medical literature whether low iron levels can cause hair thinning and especially whether correcting these iron levels can help regrow hair. If you have hair shedding and are also affected by fatigue it may be worth asking your doctor to check your iron levels. If the levels are low and the doctor recommends an iron supplement, this may help reverse the hair shedding.

Low vitamin D has also been suggested (but not proven) to cause hair loss. Inherited defects in the vitamin D receptor have been shown to cause patchy hair loss in affected infants. What has not been proven is whether supplementation for individuals with a normal vitamin D receptor can help reverse hair loss. If your doctor identifies your levels to be low it may be worth taking a supplement.

• Autoimmune conditions such as lupus, dermatomyositis, or collagen vascular diseases can result in hair shedding. If you have a family history of such conditions and are experiencing hair loss you should consult your doctor.

Medications: There is a long list of medications that can result in hair loss or hair shedding. The most common offenders are things containing high doses of vitamin A or its derivatives, such as isotretinoin (Accutane). Other drugs commonly associated with hair loss are certain blood pressure medications and blood thinning agents such as warfarin.

• Birth Control: For women, starting or stopping birth control can also result in hair shedding or hair loss. Certain classes of birth control pills may be worse for thinning hair than others. Talk with your gynecologist or dermatologist about the best types of birth control for women with thinning hair.

• Death, Divorce, Abuse: While these topics can be uncomfortable, they can certainly result in a major physiologic stress on the body. This can result in hair loss for affected persons or their loved ones.

Hair Breakage

Heat can play a damaging role to the hair shaft. This is especially true for hair that is already chemically treated, and hair that is already prone to thinning. The frequent use of flat irons or curling irons can result in a condition called trichorhexxis nodosa. This is the medical term for hair breakage. This condition can present as small white nodes along the length of the hair shaft. Or, these nodes may be present at the end of the hair shaft where the hairs have already broken off. Many people think their hair is shedding when it is really massive breakage. It can be worth visiting with your dermatologist to identify the true cause of your hair loss.