Even if you always look forward to the holidays, this time of year can induce lots of stress. Stress doesn’t just take an emotional toll -- it can have physical effects as well. You might get tense, have low energy, feel nauseous, have trouble sleeping, experience acne breakouts, and more. Severe stress can even cause you to lose your hair. On the other hand, if you’re losing hair, you may be suffering from alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair to fall out in clumps. Whatever the cause, though, you’ll want to do whatever you can to prevent further hair loss and restore what you can, which depends on receiving a proper diagnosis.
If you’ve ever been particularly stressed out, you’re probably familiar with some of the negative effects this state of mind can have on your body. However, it might not be totally clear how stress could cause your hair to fall out in the first place. Currently, medical researchers attribute a particular form of hair loss, telogen effluvium, to significant emotional stress (at least in part). Telogen refers to the resting phase of a hair follicle, during which the hair is shed from the body. Telogen effluvium occurs when several hairs are switched into the telogen phase simultaneously -- stress seems to be one of the triggers for this abrupt response.
It’s unlikely that typical levels of stress would trigger an episode of telogen effluvium, however. Scientists claim that something like a bad day, upcoming test, or typical holiday stress probably won’t lead to widespread hair loss. On the other hand, major stressors like divorces, pregnancies, the death of a loved one, or catastrophic world events could potentially trigger telogen effluvium. Additionally, it’s worth noting that telogen effluvium symptoms are delayed by about three months from the initial trigger due to the hair’s natural growth cycle. So, if the holidays are really stressing you out, you might not see any significant hair loss until the late winter or early spring. And if your hair loss is happening right around the holidays, the stressful trigger might have occurred over the summer -- that, or your hair loss is being caused by something else, like alopecia.
There are multiple types of alopecia, which have different names based on their pattern of hair loss. All forms of alopecia areata, however, are caused by autoimmune malfunction (when one’s immune system attacks the body in some way). In the case of alopecia areata, the immune system goes after the hair follicles. As for why, genetics seems to be the culprit. Those with a family history of alopecia are more likely to suffer from this type of hair loss as well. Alopecia areata is also more common in those with seasonal allergies, asthma, down syndrome, vitiligo, thyroid disease, and pernicious anemia.
An individual may experience hair loss from alopecia areata randomly and at any point of their life. Alopecia symptoms include:
Generally speaking, these signs of alopecia differ from those of telogen effluvium -- your dermatologist can examine your symptoms and run tests to determine the root of your hair loss problem.
Determining the cause of your hair loss will help you take steps to bringing back your hair. While there are no cures for alopecia areata or telogen effluvium as of yet, there are a number of treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you hold onto your hair and even grow it back. For alopecia, your dermatologist might recommend corticosteroids, topical immunotherapy, Minoxidil, and/or Finasteride. Telogen effluvium is self-correcting, so the best way to treat it is to handle your hair gently, treat any underlying hormonal issues or skin conditions, maintain a steady, healthy diet, and resolve any problems with thyroid function or vitamin deficiencies (namely iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid).
Lastly, reducing your stress levels is a great way to alleviate your hair loss, no matter what’s causing it. Try meditating on a regular basis, avoiding stressful content and situations, engaging in relaxing hobbies and activities, getting enough sleep, exercising, and seeking help from a therapist.
The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are happy to give you more advice and insight regarding the many forms of hair loss so you can restore not only your hair, but your confidence as well. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.