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What Causes Telogen Effluvium?

By Raina Cordell, RN
Stress is just one of the many causes of telogen effluvium. Learn what other causes may be playing a role in your hair loss.

If you’ve suddenly started losing hair, you may be wondering what the underlying cause is. You may be experiencing telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is related to stress, certain medications, and trauma. 

“Telogen effluvium describes the rapid temporary loss of scalp hairs as a result of a stressful event,” Robert Haber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“Anything that stresses the body, stresses the hair, including childbirth, surgery, illness, emotional stress, weight loss, new medications and more. The hair reacts by converting large numbers of anagen (growing) hairs to telogen (thinning) hairs, and the patient will then notice large amounts of shedding, particularly with styling,” Haber says. 

Telogen Effluvium Causes

According to a 2020 study published in Cureus, there are multiple factors that can trigger telogen effluvium which include:  

Medications While drugs can be life-saving, they can also have unwanted side effects such as hair loss. Telogen effluvium is one of the most common types of drug-induced hair loss. Medications that can cause telogen effluvium include: 

  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Androgens
  • Retinoids
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticoagulants

Diet Chronic starvation, crash dieting, and nutrient deficiencies can all lead to telogen effluvium. Some of the key nutrients that are important for hair growth include protein, essential fatty acids, iron, vitamin D, and biotin. If you’ve been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency or eat a poor diet, focusing on nutrition is important for reversing hair loss. 

Autoimmune According to a 2016 study in Skin Appendage Disorders, Hashimoto thyroiditis and systemic lupus erythematosus are just two of the autoimmune conditions that can cause telogen effluvium.

Postpartum After giving birth, many women experience classic short-term telogen effluvium. Postpartum hair loss is a type of hair loss caused by the sudden change in hormone levels at birth. The hair loss is usually the worst a few months after giving birth and can be significant, but most women regrow their hair fully with time. 

Chronic IllnessTelogen effluvium can be caused by any significant physical stressor. These can include surgical trauma, high fever, chronic systemic illness, and hemorrhage. Thankfully, once you recover from the illness, hair loss typically rectifies. 

Stress Emotional stress can take a toll on the body and lead to hair loss. Stress-induced hair loss is temporary and can be addressed by learning how to manage stress with healthy coping tools. “The hair is a very sensitive structure, and does not like stress,” Haber says. 

Don’t Wait. Get Help Today.

The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.