We break down how medications and post-surgery recovery can impact your hair
Your locks; The after-effects of medication and surgery
Acute telogen effluvium, or “TE” (a little easier to say and remember!), is a form of nonscarring alopecia (hair loss) that occurs for a period of less than 6 months1. This type of hair loss usually occurs 3-4 months after a triggering event2; think pregnancy, post-partum hormones, crash dieting, surgery, a stressful event or medications.
You may have experienced acute TE in the past and are curious to find out more, or perhaps you are experiencing a higher-than-usual rate of hair fall and think a triggering event or medication may be the culprit. Read on as we delve the whys and wherefores of this hair-raising topic.
Hair growth nuts and bolts
The hair on your head grows and sheds in a random fashion.
At any point in time a random amount of your hairs may be in one of three phases: Anagen (active growth phase lasting 2 – 6 years accounting for about 80-90% of hair follicles); Catagen (transitional phase lasting 2 – 3 weeks); or Telogen (10-20% of scalp hair follicles are in this resting stage which lasts about 100 days) 4. Everyone sheds hair and you may see more hair shed at certain times of the year.
Thinning hair…do care!
TE begins when a triggering event causes many hairs in the growing phase of the hair cycle (anagen) to abruptly enter the resting phase (telogen)3. A diagnosis of TE may be given by a practitioner when more than 25% of hair follicles are in the telogen phase2. Hair loss is usually less than 50% of the scalp hair1.
Following a triggering event, hair enters the telogen phase where growth stops for 1 to 6 months (on average 3 months) although most people don’t notice that hair growth has stopped. When the hairs re-enter the growth phase (anagen), the hairs which had been suspended in the resting phase (telogen) are extruded from the follicle, and hair shedding, at a greater rate is observed3.
People with telogen effluvium usually shed between 30% to 70% more than the normal 100 and 150 hairs a day5.
Delving into a ‘triggering event’
Triggering events can vary in their nature and severity. Some proposed triggers that lead to acute TE include pregnancy, post-partum hormones, acute stress or trauma (physical or emotional), crash dieting as well as surgery. Many medications have also been linked to drug-induced telogen effluvium, but the most common are beta-blockers, retinoids (including excess vitamin A), anticoagulants, propylthiouracil, carbamazepine, and immunizations3. Your doctor may not mention hair loss as a side effect of some drugs, so you may look to do your own research and read the drug manufacturer’s complete warnings. If you’re experiencing significant hair loss and suspect a medication may be to blame, speak to your healthcare professional to discuss alternatives or options.
Triggering events that may be linked to TE hair loss usually occur several months prior to the hair shedding and thinning. An individual may have completely recovered from the event, stopped taking the associated medication or even put a stressful period out of their mind. When hair suddenly starts to fall or shed in a rapid nature several months later, this important connection may be missed.
Frequently, in about 33% of cases, the cause or triggering event remains unknown2.
You’re not alone
The exact prevalence of telogen effluvium is not known, but it is considered to be quite common. A large percentage of adults experience an episode of telogen effluvium at some point3.
OK, now what?
So, you might not be alone, but this might feel like cold comfort when it comes to losing more hair than you’re used to. The good news is that acute TE is known as a ‘self limited’ condition meaning it runs a definite and limited course, lasting about 6 months1. In other words, acute TE is temporary once the triggering factor is identified and removed, but patience will be required following an episode of significant hair loss. An understanding of acute TE’s temporary nature as well as the normal hair cycle and growth phases can help reduce anxiety and manage expectations about what a realistic recovery process will look like.
For short-term TE that can be linked to a trigger like surgery or medication that has been identified and ceased, the best response is to sit tight and wait for the follicles to recover of their own accord4. During recovery, you may worry that brushing and grooming your hair will worsen the shedding, but you can rest assured that your hair is normal and it can be washed and styled in the usual way3.
Nutritional supplements can play an important role in recovery by ensuring the necessary vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids are present in the diet to support hair follicles and a healthy scalp.
How Apotecari can help
While you are on any medications or specialist instructions, its important you discuss the introduction of any supplements, such as Crowning Glory or Mane Event, with your healthcare professional. Your doctor or medication prescriber is best-placed to understand your specific medical history and current medication routine. Once you have the OK to proceed with nutritional supplements or you finish your course of medication, Mane Event and Crowning Glory can offer intensive and targeted support. To encourage new growth, 3 months of Mane Event is ideal to kick start your hair recovery journey. If a dry, flakey or irritated scalp has resulted from use of certain medications, Crowning Glory can provide nourishment and hydration from within, helping to restore the skin’s barrier function.
Hair Food is an excellent addition to a healthy diet and can be incorporated into your routine in a versatile and simple manner, daily. If you are on medications or have recently undergone surgery, are pregnant or breastfeeding, Hair Food offers suitable nutritional support that can assist your hair and follicles from within.
1 Malkud S, Telogen Effluvium: A review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
2 Asghar F et al, Telogen Effluvium: A review of the literature. Cureus. 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320655/
3 Hughes EC et al Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
4 American hair loss association https://www.americanhairloss.org/hair_science/index.html
5 Medications that Can Cause Hair Loss, WebMD https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/drug-induced-hair-loss-2#1