Why Am I Shedding My Hair?

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This article originally appeared on www.HealthBytesNYC.com

Did you know that during the normal course of a day, you will lose between 50 and 100 hairs? This is nothing to be concerned about — it’s just nature’s way of replacing old hair with new. Other mammals have growing and shedding seasons, but human beings consistently grow and shed hair on a daily basis throughout life. But what happens when you lose more hair than is typical?

Why am I shedding my hair?
What if you’re shedding 200 or 300 hairs daily, or if your hair even comes out in clumps? You may be suffering from telogen effluvium. Those with this condition sometimes stop washing, combing or brushing their hair, because that’s when they notice the most hair loss. But, the hair that is destined to shed as a result of telogen effluvium will do so whether or not you wash or brush your hair.

What is telogen effluvium?
To understand telogen effluvium, you need to know some basic hair biology. The average scalp has 100,000 hairs. About 90% of these hairs are in the growing, or anagen, phase. The other 10% are in the resting, or telogen, phase. Typically, once a hair stops growing, it remains dormant and will fall out approximately 2 to 4 months later. This happens because a new hair, which is in the growing phase, pushes the resting hair out of the hair follicle in the scalp.

Telogen effluvium occurs when this balance gets out of whack. For example, 70% of your hair may be in the growing phase and 30% in the dormant phase. When the balance between the growing-phase hairs and the dormant-phase hairs falls out of sync, a patient may see a mass of hair falling from their head and grow alarmed.

What causes it?
There are many common causes of this condition:
• Childbirth — Women often suffer telogen effluvium after childbirth. During pregnancy, the ratio of anagen to telogen hair actually is in reverse from telogen effluvium — that is, more hair tends to remain in the anagen phase. Most women who are pregnant say their hair has the most volume ever. After childbirth, more hair tends to fall out. This is the body’s normal reaction to recalibrating the equilibrium of growing-phase and dormant-phase hair. When a woman’s hair starts to fall out after childbirth, there is usually nothing to be alarmed about.
• Illnesses that cause high fever
• Major injuries and surgeries
• Diets, such as crash diets or some of the more popular fad diets that cause a significant amount of weight loss within a short period of time
• Hormonal changes, which may result from stopping or starting birth control medication
• Thyroid disease
• Certain medications, especially beta blockers, anticoagulants, retinoids including excess vitamin A, and carbamazepines
• Starting a new medication
• Immunizations, like an annual flu shot
• Chronic illnesses such as cancer, lupus, renal failure and liver disease
• Severe psychological stress

How long will it last and what is the treatment?
The good news: Recovery generally occurs spontaneously within 6 months to a year. Still, it’s important to find the underlying cause and correct it earlier rather than later. Once the cause has been identified, your doctor can determine options for treatment. These vary depending on the cause of the condition. If it is caused by pregnancy, a patient will typically have a full recovery. To find an excellent doctor who is right for you, please call 866.804.1007.

Information provided by Richard Mizuguchi, MD, Director of Hair Loss Clinic and Hair Restoration Surgery Center in the Department of Dermatology at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospital and a member of the Skin of Color Center.


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