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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Telogen Effluvium and on Being a Survivor

My hair now
I've jokingly told my kids they can call me "fuzzy head" and have wondered how many others around me have noticed my perpetual "bad hair days." I haven't let it bug me too much, trying instead to just focus on how grateful I am that it's growing back in. Although, some days I wish I had a shirt that says something like I'm a Pneumonia and Childbirth Survivor. Those who have been through grueling cases of one or both of these can empathize with me. The problem, in my case, was that I went through both within two months of each other. (I've written about this a few times here.)

My hair at about 6 months pregnant
During pregnancy, the rate of my hair growth increases (and it normally grows fast) and I lose very little, so I have great "pregnant hair"! But a few months after I have the baby, all that hair I retained begins falling out in clumps. It's always alarming, but I've learned that it's normal and I'll be okay. This last time, however, my hair started falling out within a couple months after my son was born, and a couple months later it still hadn't quit. In fact, my hair loss seemed to have accelerated, and I was truly beginning to feel frantic. About five months after the birth of my baby, my hair loss finally slowed down and I discovered "baby hairs" growing back in--all over my head. Thus, "fuzzy head." As I had lost a fourth to a third of my total hair volume, this discovery came as a great relief!

It wasn't until my mom happened to mention her hair loss last fall that I realized there might be a pneumonia connection, since she had also had pneumonia that summer (a month before I had it). So I decided to do some research and found out there is actually a scientific name for this condition: Telogen Effluvium. It "occurs when sudden or severe stress causes an increase in the shedding of the hair. In Telogen effluvium a sudden or stressful event can cause the hair follicles to prematurely stop growing and enter into a resting phase. The hair will then stay in the resting phase for about 3 months after which time a large amount of hair will be shed. (This other site says it may only take 1 month, which was closer to my case.) Often the person involved will have recovered from the event before the hair loss occurs. In most cases the hair loss is temporary and the hair soon recovers." (see this link for more information)

For me, this has felt anything but soon. It has now been a year since my baby was born and I have a long way to go to get back to the very long, fairly thick hair I had last year at this time (I had to keep having it cut shorter and shorter as it became thinner and thinner). At least my hair does grow fast and it is growing back.

Until then, I'll just keep remembering I'm a survivor.

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