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'Excessive Shedding' continued...

There are no tests for telogen effluvium, but your dermatologist may ask you about recent life events and look at the root of hairs you’ve shed. Club-shaped bulbs are a tell-tale sign, says Mirmirani, who's also a member of the North American Hair Research Society. The bulbs mean your hair has gone through a complete growth cycle, which may have sped up due to stress. 

What can you do?

“In some cases, such as pregnancy or major surgery, reassurance and time is the best remedy,” she says. “If medication is the culprit, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching drugs. If it's stress-related, reduce anxiety.”

And if your diet isn't great, take steps to improve it.  

Hair can start to regrow in about 6 months, if the cause of the effluvium is resolved.

Thyroid Problems

Problems with your thyroid gland can lead to hair loss.

“Hypothyroidism -- too little hormone -- may cause a host of symptoms, and hair, nails, and skin may become more brittle and break more easily," says Mirmirani. "With hyperthyroidism -- too much hormone -- hair loss can appear as metabolism speeds up.”

Blood tests can confirm whether you have a thyroid problem. Thyroid hormone medication may return your hormone levels to normal and help with hair loss and other symptoms. Your doctor will check every 6 weeks or so to see if you need to change your dosage.

Underlying Scalp Conditions

Hair loss can be caused by a fungus, psoriasis, or dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).

  • The most common fungal infection affecting the hair is ringworm -- the same thing as athlete's foot. It requires an antifungal medication.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis makes your scalp shed, resulting in greasy, yellowish scales in the hair. Causes include hormonal changes or excess oil in the skin. It can be reversed. Treatment is usually a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo, a prescription antifungal cleanser, or steroid cream. 
  • Psoriasis, an autoimmune condition, produces thick white scale on the scalp that can bleed if pulled off. Treatments include steroid creams, salicylic acid, coal tar, anti-inflammatory drugs, and biologics that suppress your immune system. 

If you think you may have one of these conditions, talk to your doctor.