COVID-19 and Hair Loss - the hard facts from Los Doctores Cubanos

COVID-19 and Hair Loss - the hard facts from Los Doctores Cubanos

The COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2019 has been ravaging all of humanity throughout the globe. Among its more life-threatening complications, researchers have discovered that patients that have recovered from COVID-19 are at risk of hair loss too! 

 

Can a Respiratory Virus Cause Hair Loss?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 can. Studies in New York City and Detroit, Michigan, have found that patients recovered from COVID have visited dermatology clinics with profound hair loss (Mieczkowska et al. 2021; Olds et al. 2021). With the cases rising, it has become more prevalent than normal. The name of this condition has been pinpointed to be Telogen Effluvium.

 

What is Telogen Effluvium?

Telogen Effluvium is a scalp disorder characterized by excessive shedding of hair. 

How does this happen? The hair on our head grows due to something called hair follicles. We have millions of hair follicles on our heads in one of three growth stages; the growth phase, involution or thinning phase, and finally, the resting phase, also called the telogen phase. In a healthy person, most of our hair follicles are in the growth phase, with a few follicles being in the resting or thinning phase (Asghar et al. 2020).

In telogen effluvium, most of our hair goes from the normal growth phase to the resting phase. Over time as more of these follicles abnormally go into the thinning and then resting phase, visible hair loss ensues. There are two types of telogen effluvium; acute and chronic. In the acute type, you lose up to 50% of your hair over 3-6 months, and then your hair goes back to normal over time (treatment will speed up the process). However, chronic TE is a condition that lasts longer than six months (Asghar et al. 2020).

 

How does COVID cause Telogen Effluvium?

This condition occurs after a triggering event that a patient may experience. Its causes are numerous such as infection causes such as typhoid or malaria, physiological stresses such as childbirth, the use of certain drugs, or even due to changes or inadequate nutrition. This triggering even goes onto alter the status of the hair follicles of these patients resulting in telogen effluvium. 

Now, how does COVID come into this? COVID-19 is thought to be both an infective cause in some and a stress-related cause (isolation, quarantine) of telogen effluvium. (Olds et al. 2021)

 

What should I do if I get Hair Loss after/during COVID?

Recovering from COVID-19 is your priority, and for many, this is quite straightforward. Once you have recovered, you should understand that your hair loss may have another underlying cause that was only precipitated due to COVID-19. Hence, visiting a dermatology clinic and consulting a specialist who will help you to assess and eliminate other possible triggering effects is crucial. Once they do so, they will prescribe you a suitable treatment regimen to recover your lush, beautiful hair.

The COVID-19 pandemic may seem never-ending, but don’t lose hope. The world is full of wonderful people to help you cope with even the hardest of times. So don’t lose faith. When it comes to something as vital as your appearance (after surviving COVID, of course!), early advice will drastically improve recovery time from telogen effluvium. So even after recovering from COVID, remember to take a closer look in the mirror and see how your hair is doing!

We stress the importance of seeing a board-certified dermatologist to further assist in this condition and to seek appropriate medical care. This article is for information purposes only and should not be used as the basis of treatment or the substitution for medical care.

References

Asghar, Fahham et al. 2020. “Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature.” Cureus 12(5). /pmc/articles/PMC7320655/ (July 30, 2021).

Mieczkowska, Karolina et al. 2021. “Telogen Effluvium: A Sequela of COVID‐19.” International Journal of Dermatology 60(1): 122–24. /pmc/articles/PMC7753411/ (July 30, 2021).

Olds, Hailey et al. 2021. “Telogen Effluvium Associated with COVID 19 Infection.” Dermatologic Therapy 34(2). /pmc/articles/PMC7883200/ (July 30, 2021).



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