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Effluvium refers to a hair loss condition that affects the hair growth cycle phases. Hair follicles do not produce hair in a continuous basis, but instead go through a cycle starting with a growth stage or anagen phase lasting for more than two years before going into the resting stage or telogen phase which can last as long as two months, and then growing new hair again. About 80 to 90% of all the hair on the scalp is growing at any given time.

Telogen effluvium or TE is one of the most common types of hair loss. Although poorly defined with a little research done to understand this condition, it is known that Telogen effluvium occurs when a change in the number of hair follicles that grow hair happens. If the quantity of hair follicles that produce hair is reduced dramatically for any reason when in the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle, a considerable increase in dormant hair follicles occur which results in shedding or telogen effluvium. The hairs that are shed due to telogen effluvium are typically hair in the telogen phase, recognizable by the small keratin bulb on the root of the hair.

Effluvium, also known as defluvium, manifests through a thinning of the hair on some parts of, or all over, the scalp. The hair thinning may be a more extensive in some parts of the scalp, majority of the times, the top of the scalp experiences the most thinning compared to the back and sides of the scalp. The hairline normally does not recede at all, except for those in chronic cases of telogen effluvium. Hair loss due to effluvium is reversible as the hair follicles do not experience permanent damage. 

The development of Telogen effluvium may be caused by the following:

  • Environmental factors

Some factors in the environment may cause effluvium. Certain incidents may occur that can cause the hair follicles to go into the resting state. This can augment hair shedding and cause the thinning of hair. Effluvium caused by environmental factors can occur rapidly and may become noticeable at least a month after the incident. If the event that triggered the movement of hair follicles into the resting state ends immediately, the hair follicles can return to the anagen or growing phase and start producing hair again.

  • Prolonged telogen state

Hair follicles may go into the resting or telogen state and instead of returning to the growing or anagen phase, stay in the resting phase for a longer period of time. This eventually results in the slow and continuing buildup of hair follicles in the telogen phase and a lesser numbers of hair follicles in the anagen phase. More noticeable but slow shedding of hair may occur if the effluvium is caused by this phenomenon.

  • Shortened hair growth cycle

The hair follicles go into a shortened phases of the hair growth cycle. When this occurs, thin scalp hair may be experienced as well as constant shedding of short and thin hair fibers.

The occurrence of telogen effluvium may be attributed to causes such as changes in hormone levels, stress, dietary problems, some drugs and medication, as well as chronic diseases.

Effluvium may also occur as a part of another disease such as androgenetic alopecia. Effluvium may also be a symptom of other conditions such as alopecia areata.

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