Why is my Hair Falling Out and What Can I Do?

Losing hair is distressing! There are many types of hair loss. Some varieties are associated with patchy hair loss and some with more diffuse hair loss.

Let’s take a closer look at a typical hair loss type causing diffuse loss of hair called – telogen effluvium.

What is it?

Your hair goes through 3 cycles, growth (anagen), transition (catagen) and rest (telogen).

The growth or anagen phase is where you want to be. Your hair root is receiving nourishment from your blood supply allowing the cells to multiply and make your hair grow longer and thicker. This phase takes about three years.

Transition or catagen phase. Your hair follicle detaches from the blood supply, hair growth ceases and leads to the next stage over the next three days.

Rest or telogen phase. Without blood supply, your hair hangs around for about three months and then falls out. Probably the only time you will say: I don’t want more rest.

Your hair follicle cycles through these 3 phases continuously. It is normal to shed about 100 hairs per day. The problem starts when too much of your hair transitions to the rest phase causing telogen effluvium. Because it remains in this phase for three months, you will only see the hair fall out three months later. Your dermatologist will be asking you: what happened three months ago?

Why me?

There are many reasons for your hair suddenly transitioning to the rest (telogen) phase. Acute illness (for example, infections causing fever), chronic disease, major surgery, certain medications, significant emotional stress, childbirth, endocrine (hormonal) disorders, a sudden change in diet or nutritional deficiencies can all be causes of telogen effluvium.

What can I do?

  1. Think back
    What caused your system to be under stress about three months before the hair loss started? Any illness, operation, childbirth or significant emotional distress? Did you start any medication? Did you make a significant change to your diet?
  2. Quantify your Hair Loss
    It is normal to lose 100 hairs or less per day. This may be a difficult task but see if you can count the hairs collected after brushing your hair in the morning.
  3. See your Dermatologist
    Your doctor will help determine the exact kind of hair loss you are experiencing. Telogen effluvium is only one of them. Some blood tests might be necessary to figure out the underlying cause. Treatment options will also be discussed.
  4. Be Patient
    Once the precipitating cause is addressed your hair will grow at a rate of about 1cm per month. So if you have been waiting for five months for hair growth – look for short little 5cm hairs. Please don’t lose hope, it’s a long road, but you will get there.

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