Telogen Effluvium is one of several names used to identify varying patterns of hair loss. The word “effluvium” means “outflow” and describes a cycle whereby hair ceases to grow and is spontaneously shed. This is actually a perfectly normal occurrence and needn’t be a cause for alarm, but occasionally this normal cycle can become disrupted and then problems may occur.

The technical definition of Telogen Effluvium is a condition characterized by an abnormal amount of hairs in the dormant, or resting, phase. It is when hair is in the resting phase that it is regularly shed so if a large percent of hair remains in this stage, more of it will be shed than usual. The result is an all over thinning of the hair, usually only on the scalp but in some severe cases there can also be hair loss in the eyebrows and pubic region as well.

There are three basic types of TE: a sudden shock which can cause a sudden and dramatic loss of hair as it instantly enters the resting stage; a gradual loss as hair enters the resting stage normally but does not come out of it and instead begins to be shed; or a series of rapid growth cycles that prevent the growing hair from catching up to the resting hair and result in hair loss.

What causes this hair loss?

During pregnancy, more hair follicles are maintained in the growth phase. After pregnancy, a greater proportion of these hairs go into the resting phase, causing a temporary self-correcting increased shedding of the hair.

The same phenomenon can be seen after stopping birth control pills.

The flu or stress can also cause telogen effluvium.

Unfortunately, there is much that we still don’t know about this condition, which makes pinpointing a main cause difficult. Along with conditions such as pregnancy that can affect the balance of hormones and severe stress, it is thought that nutritional deficiencies may also play a role in developing TE. In particular, a lack of iron, caused by eating a diet that does not contain a sufficient amount of red meat, can affect hair growth.

Is there treatment for telogen effluvium?

There is no treatment for telogen effluvium, as the condition will eventually correct itself. All the lost hair will eventually be replaced.

While there is no specific treatment for the condition, the recommended method is to identify the underlying stress that is causing it and take steps to relieve it. If the underlying cause is something isolated, such as having surgery or taking a particular medicine, that can be easily done. In other cases, it may be more difficult to identify a specific stressor.

Because there have been so few strides made in understanding and treating TE, if a specific stressor can not be identified then you may just have to wait the condition out. Some dermatologists have tried using the medication Minoxidil to encourage hair growth, but the results are limited at best if the underlying stress factor is not addressed.