There are multiple different hair loss conditions and many are well-documented, but one rarely-mentioned – yet far from uncommon – condition is called Anagen Effluvium.
It has some similarities to the better-known condition Telogen Effluvium, in that the thinning takes place across the whole scalp. But whereas Telogen Effluvium can happen to anyone, especially those who have given their body some kind of “jolt” in the form an extreme new exercise or dieting regime, a change of medications or stress, Anagen Effluvium usually describes hair loss from cancer treatment caused by chemotherapy drugs. In this instance it is often referred to as chemotherapy-induced hair loss.
Understanding the hair growth cycle
To understand the two conditions a little better, it may be helpful to know how the hair growth cycle works, as “telogen” describes the resting phase of the cycle while “anagen” relates to growth.
On normal, healthy scalps, most of the hair is in the growth phase, but at any given time around 10-15 per cent will be in the telogen/resting phase, which lasts about five weeks before the hairs fall out and new hairs start to grow. When people are diagnosed with Telogen Effluvium, a “trigger” event has caused more hairs than normal to enter the resting phase, with the result that far more of them than normal will suddenly shed. This tends to take an average of around three months to become noticeable, though timelines can vary.
This can be very distressing when it is first noticed (it is more common in women than men), but the good news is that Telogen Effluvium treatment can help to accelerate the regrowth process. If left alone, most cases will resolve themselves naturally in around six months.
By comparison, Anagen Effluvium makes hair fall out during the growing phase and is commonly seen when people undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment. What happens is that otherwise healthy cells in the scalp can be killed by drugs/radiation waves and hair starts to shed. The thinning is often more dramatic than when hair is lost to Telogen Effluvium and may result in complete baldness. Radiation therapy, when it is used on the head, generally causes permanent hairloss as the follicles are usually destroyed in the process. In the case of chemotherapy, however, this is almost always temporary hair loss, with the hair taking around 12 months following the last round of cancer treatment, to regrow naturally.
Hair loss treatment is often possible for cancer survivors whose follicles are still active, though Belgravia specialists always require a letter from the patient’s oncologist, confirming that they are suitable to go ahead, before medications can be prescribed.
Cold caps may help
To help minimise the number of hairs that may fall out during chemo cancer treatment, some patients are offered the use of a cold cap. This helmet-like device is worn during chemotherapy and freezes the scalp in order to deter the chemo drugs from circulating up to the hair follicles, thus helping to prevent baldness.
These don’t work in every case – nor are they available for all types of treatment or, indeed, at every hospital – but they do offer some hope to many and there have been many success stories.
There are so many different hair loss conditions that it always makes sense to ensure that a correct diagnosis is made early on, as treatment options are not the same for every condition.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.