Telogen Effluvium and Other Effluviums
Causes of Telogen Effluvium: Stress and Diet continued...
In first world countries the average diet is rarely completely deficient in
a particular vitamin or mineral. However, some dermatologists claim that with a
reduction in red meat intake and a preference for vegetarian diets, some
individuals are not getting a balanced intake of all the nutrients required for
good hair and overall body growth. In particular, there are claims that women
may be deficient in their iron intake. Why women specifically? Because women
lose iron at regular intervals as a result of menstruation.
Some dermatologists believe that as we now eat less red meat, a key source
of iron, some people are not eating enough iron and TE is the result. Other
potential deficiencies of the modern North American diet -- such as a lack of
zinc, amino acid L-lysine, or vitamins B6 and B12 -- have also been suggested
to contribute to TE.
When dietary deficiencies are suspected, supplements may be taken. However,
supplements themselves can cause problems. Our bodies can only process so much
iron each day. At high doses, iron is toxic and this can itself cause hair
loss. At really high doses, iron supplements will cause death. Vitamin A
supplements can also cause a TE reaction in some individuals, as excessive
vitamin A can also be toxic.
TE can occur on its own or as part of another disease. The early stages of
androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short) are
effectively TE. Early AGA is characterized by an increase in resting telogen
hair follicles. Someone in the early stages of AGA may have up to 40% of their
scalp hair follicles in telogen.
TE can also be a symptom of other conditions, such as inflammatory
conditions like alopecia areata. Hair follicles are particularly sensitive to
thyroid hormones and about one third of individuals with a thyroid disorder
have TE. Exposure to toxins can also cause TE as one of many symptoms.
Treatments for Telogen Effluvium
How TE is treated depends on what has activated it. For short-term TE that
can be linked to a trigger like surgery, the best response is to sit tight and
wait for the follicles to recover of their own accord.
For persistent TE, if the causal factor can be isolated, then the best
method is to remove it. For example, if stress is the problem, stress reduction
is the long-term answer. If a dietary deficiency appears on a blood test, then
supplements can work. A deficiency in thyroid hormones can be treated with
However, often a specific causal factor cannot be identified. If this is the
case, there are few treatment options. Most dermatologists resort to
prescribing minoxidil, a direct hair growth stimulator. Minoxidil can work well
for some individuals with TE, but if the underlying cause is still present,
then minoxidil must be continued to block redevelopment of TE. With removal of
the trigger, minoxidil use can be stopped.