News comes of a whole raft of symptoms suffered by survivors of Ebola virus, months after they have recovered from the disease. These range from vision and hearing problems, depression, nerve damage and, now, hair loss. The World Health Organisation have been monitoring survivors and their recovery process to learn more about this devastating disease and have found that many have experienced temporary hair loss, that took a few months to appear and, for most, resolved a few months later.
A common category of hair loss conditions are called effluviums. This basically means ‘outflow’ and they relate to the hair cycle.
Our hair is going through a constant cycle of growth, known as the hair cycle, and it is divided into three distinct stages. All our hair follicles are in one of these three stages at any one time. About 80 per cent of our hair follicles are in the anagen, or active growth, phase and this can last a number of years. Approximately 10 per cent of the scalp follicles are in the telogen or resting stage which is where they stop growing prior to falling out.
A disruption of the hair follicles when they are in the telogen stage causes telogen effluvium, or hair shedding, probably the second most common hair loss condition. This presents as diffuse thinning all over the scalp.
Anagen effluvium occurs when the hair follicles that are in the anagen stage are affected. As the majority of hair follicles are in this stage, this will present as sudden shedding of much of the hair leaving the scalp almost completely bald.
Reasons for effluvium-related hair loss
A common recent for telogen or anagen effluvium is a a shock to the system. Usually, the hair loss is noticeable one or two months after the traumatic event and, if the stressor is short term, then the hair follicles recover and will return to their growing stage again. The experience of the Ebola survivors point to this being the reason for their hair loss.
Other reasons for effluvium-related hair loss include certain medications and a diet deficiency, both of which could be factors in the problems discovered by the World Health Organisation in their study of Ebola survivors.