Woman’s hair loss most likely temporary

Dear Dr. Roach: Last summer I had two abdominal surgeries, which were very traumatic (total of 17 days in the hospital), as well as severe pain and a very difficult recuperation. About three months later, my hair started falling out. It is now so short and so thin. My doctor said it is “telogen effluvium,” and is a result of the trauma and stress I experienced in the hospital and during recovery. I’ve been using Rogaine for Women for about a month now. Can you recommend anything additional that I can take or use that will help my hair regrow? My doctor said it is usually temporary, but I don’t see any improvement yet.

– PW

Dear PW: Telogen effluvium is the sudden loss of hair, usually associated with an identifiable factor. (A “telogen” hair is a mature hair at the end of the growth cycle; “effluvium” is a Latin word meaning “flowing away.”) The hair loss is not instantaneous, nor is it complete — less than 50% of scalp hair is typically lost, but “short and thin” is an excellent description of the appearance in most people. The exact cause is unknown, but something causes hair to prematurely enter the telogen phase, which is when hair sheds. Telogen effluvium does happen more commonly in women, but it occurs in both men and women and at any age. The scalp has no scarring, which differentiates this condition from other types of acute hair loss .

Surgery and the medical condition necessitating surgery are common causes of telogen effluvium. Childbirth, rapid weight loss, iron and other nutritional deficiencies and emotional stress are all well-described predecessors of telogen effluvium.

When a cause can be identified, it should be removed if possible (for example, correcting the nutritional deficiency). In the case of an event like yours, your doctor is correct that it usually will get better, with the hair getting noticeable thicker usually within six months to a year. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is used by some experts to help the hair regrow.

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