For years, it has widely been known that critical illnesses can lead to hair loss. Patients who are going through a serious illness often experience either hair loss, or hair thinning, as a side effect of the condition. This can understandably be devastating for patients, leading researchers to look more closely into the issue in order to develop a greater understanding of the topic.
A team of researchers in Wales have recently carried out an investigation into the risk factors and incidence of hair loss in critically ill patients. Here, we’ll look at what the research revealed.
More than one-third of critically ill patients report hair loss
The 123-mixed study carried out by numerous Welsh hospitals, discovered that more than one-third of critically ill patients report hair loss. The researchers monitored patients who had been in intensive care units for a minimum of five days. They were provided with a survey approximately three months after they had been discharged.
After receiving the surveys back, the team then compared the results of those who stated they had experienced hair loss, with those who didn’t. Risk factors were then looked at using multivariate logistic regression analysis.
The findings of the study were published within the Journal of Critical Care. They revealed that 36% of patients who had been in intensive care units, reported experiencing hair loss. The team only identified one potential risk factor and that was septic shock or sepsis.
Understanding the types of hair loss experienced
In regard to the type of hair loss critically ill patients develop, it appears the majority suffer from telogen effluvium. This is a temporary and common form of hair loss, though it can still understandably cause patients to become distressed and self-conscious.
In some cases, it is possible for critically ill patients to develop the more severe form of hair loss – alopecia areata. However, this is extremely rare and telogen effluvium remains the most common type experienced. The reasons why hair loss may occur due to critical illness include the severity of the critical illness, medications and if a fever is present.
What is Telogen Effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is one of the most common types of hair loss experienced by patients. It can have numerous causes, but stress is one of the key factors associated with the condition. Stress forces the hair follicles into the resting phase, where it temporarily stops growing and shedding. Then, after a period of time, the hair moves into the shedding phase, which results in more hairs being shed at the same time, leaving noticeably thinner hair, or patches of hair loss.
So, in terms of critically ill patients, the study revealed septic shock was likely one of the biggest causes of telogen effluvium. This new research shows patients should be made aware of the risks of hair loss when they are diagnosed with a critical illness. It will usually resolve itself, but in some cases, treatment may be required. There are temporary treatment options which can improve and slow down the rate of telogen effluvium until it does resolve by itself. Book a consultation with a hair loss specialist to determine the best treatment options for you.