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Telogen Effluvium

What is Telogen Effluvium?

Telogen Effluvium is a very common hair loss condition that is associated with excessive shedding of long strands of in an amount that usually causes alarm and fear.

What is the cause of Telogen Effluvium?

Telogen Effluvium is usually caused by a major stressful event that interrupts the growth cycle of hair on the scalp. The excessive shedding of hair is usually noticed from two to four months later. Rapid weight loss, child birth, illnesses with high fever, surgical operations, thyroid disease, severe emotional distress, and poor diet are examples of conditions that can trigger telogen effluvium. There is a thinning of the scalp.

What are the symptoms?

Individuals with telogen effluvium can shed hundreds of hairs per day. Sometimes the shedding is noticed during shampooing, or combing and brushing the hair or on the pillow case after a night’s sleep. A trail of hair can be noticed in different parts of the home while going from place to place.

How is it diagnosed?

A dermatologist can make a diagnosis based upon the medial history as well as examining the hair and scalp and noticing how easily long strands of hair can be removed from the scalp without any discomfort.  Many patients will bring in bags of hair that have been collected to show exactly how much hair they have been losing.

What tests are needed?

A hair pull test will show an increased percentage of club hairs with white tips on the end of the hair shafts. Blood tests will help determine if there is an underlying medical cause such as thyroid disease or anemia if suspected.

What is the expected duration?

Under usual circumstances the hair shedding stops in 8 to 12 months after resolution of the condition that caused it to appear. There is a chronic version of Telogen Effluvium that can continue for as long as two to seven years or more for unknown reasons with all lab results and testing coming back as normal.

How can it be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent telogen effluvium.


An explanation of the diagnosis and reassurance is usually the only support required. Stress management and improved diet with or without hair vitamin supplements can be beneficial. If anemia or underlying medical condition such as thyroid disease is present, then treating that  will help the hair to stop shedding as well.

When to contact a professional

A dermatologist should be consulted for evaluation of persistent excessive hair shedding that does not stop on its own.


Telogen effluvium usually resolves in most cases with return of normal hair growth. If there is a family history of hormonal hair loss or androgenetic alopecia (AGA) then telogen effluvium can unmask this condition and cause it to appear quicker leading to persistent areas of  hair thinning in the middle of the scalp.

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