Is Shingles Causing My Hair Loss?'

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Sarah

Question: I have shingles and my hair is shedding a lot. I felt really exhausted for a week or so before the blisters came up and I was diagnosed, and I've been losing more hair than normal every day during this time. I have really thick hair that tends to shed quite a lot anyway but now it's really noticeable as I don't even have to brush it to see it coming out. Is this likely to be because of the shingles please? And what do I do about it? Thanks.

ShinglesAnswer: Hi Sarah. Yes, it is possible that this illness may have triggered your hair loss.

Many illnesses, including shingles (herpes zoster virus), can cause hair loss as a side-effect, as can some of the medications used to treat them. This is from a condition called Telogen Effluvium (TE) and is temporary, lasting no longer than 12 months. TE is usually caused by an event around two to three months before shedding occurs. However, everyone responds differently.

The reason for shingles to flare up later in life in people who have previously had chicken pox is currently unknown so there may well be a link between the two that we are not aware of. Stress is thought to be a trigger for both shingles and Telogen Effluvium so it may be worth trying to relax more and make sure your stress levels are in check.

The hair you lose will generally regrow naturally once the body is no longer having to fight the infection, but treatment for Telogen Effluvium can help to accelerate the regrowth process.

Aciclovir, a medication often used to treat shingles, has been linked to Alopecia Areata, however this is unlikely to be the reason for your shedding as this makes the hair fall out in distinct patches.

TE causes diffuse shedding from all over the scalp which sounds like what you are describing and the lingering effects of shingles are enough to cause hair loss in most people so it is likely to be the case although we would advise you to see a hair loss specialist for a professional diagnosis. This is because Telogen Effluvium can not only exacerbate, but also trigger Female Pattern Hair Loss if you have a genetic predisposition to this hereditary condition so it is worth getting checked over to ensure you know exactly what you are experiencing, particularly as you mention that you tend to regularly shed a lot of hair. A dedicated specialist can also provide you with advice and information on the best hair loss treatment course to follow for your specific situation.

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