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Leading clinic reports a link between Covid-19 symptoms and rise in hair loss patients

A leading clinic has reported a link between Covid-19 and hair loss after survivors complained the disease caused their locks to fall out in clumps.

Specialists at the Belgravia Centre in London told FEMAIL they began noticing an uplift in cases of telogen effluvium (TE) – a shedding condition caused by a disturbance in the hair growth cycle – in patients who battled coronavirus.

TE, which sees a high percentage of anagen follicles (follicles which are actively growing hair), go into their resting phase prematurely across the scalp typically follows a stressful event and is triggered two to four months after, often causing alarm to sufferers.

The clinic formally recorded its findings over a six week period across June and July. 

The most commonly reported diagnosis remained androgenic alopecia, or patterned hair loss, however a higher percentage of TE cases were seen, many of which occurred eight to 16 weeks after Covid-19 symptoms.

Dozens of Covid-19 survivors have reported hair loss weeks after their initial coronavirus symptoms – with some eagle-eyed Twitter users claiming prime minister Boris Johnson appears to be thinning after his fight with the disease.

Mother-of-one Grace Dudley, 30, from Romford, Essex, said she began to notice her locks falling out in large clumps, seemingly without reason, more than a month after she was discharged from hospital after beating Covid-19.

The make-up artist spent almost a fortnight in hospital after contracting it from her father, who later died of multiple organ failure caused by the virus. 

Grace, who has since shaved her head and raised £1,400 for the Little Princess Trust via a GoFundMe page, told FEMAIL her hair fell out every time she brushed it, causing her to lose around 55 per cent every day.

She was told by an expert that her hair loss was linked to Covid-19. According to Grace, the trichologist said the severe hair loss had been triggered because the body had been so close to death that it had began to ‘shut down’ follicles on her head in a bid to conserve energy for essential functions.  

Other Covid-19 survivors have taken to Twitter to share their experiences of hair loss weeks and even months after the initial symptoms of Covid-19 have passed.

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of male patients and over a third of women (38 per cent) diagnosed with TE at the Belgravia Centre reported having experienced Covid-19 related symptoms – the majority of times having fallen ill in March, suggesting a correlation between the virus and hair loss approximately three months later.

TE alone can present concerning shedding, but when co-existing with patterned hair loss, which was seen in a number of cases, it can aggravate existing or underlying conditions.

Rali Bozhinova, superintendent trichologist at the Belgravia Centre, told FEMAIL: ‘It’s quite common for TE-related hair loss to present around three months after a period of severe trauma, illness or stress, which fits with our findings. 

‘The spike in diagnoses shows the extent of stress that the virus places on the body, not only causing temporary TE, but also potentially exacerbating other hair loss conditions which can have long lasting effects if left untreated. 

‘Only recently have we begun treating cases from March, therefore I would expect to see this trend continuing for some time in the wake of the virus.’

TE is often temporary and recoverable, lasting in the most part up to six months. Any longer than six months and the condition is considered chronic. 

Whether each patient’s case of TE is due to Covid-19, other illness, medication, dietary deficiencies, severe stress, a recent pregnancy or bereavement is not definitively known, however TE is often multi-aetiological and it’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason.

Ms O’Connell is currently experiencing TE following a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19 in March. She said: ‘In July my hair loss was really bad. 

‘It wasn’t just a strand here and there, I started to realise my hair was everywhere – all over the bed sheets and shower. 

‘I began questioning why and brushed it a couple of times. The clumps that fell out were unbelievable and my pony tail quickly halved in size. 

‘It’s strange to think I’m still seeing the effects of the virus months later, but having discussed my diagnosis with Rali, at least I can get on top of the problem.’

Eva Proudman, of the Institute of Trichologists, which specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the hair and scalp, told FEMAIL that TE is triggered by a number of potential factors.

Among them is a continuous high temperature like those experienced by some Covid-19 patients including Grace, who had a temperature of 40C (104F) when she was taken into hospital.

Eva said: ‘Generally with a normal growing and shedding cycle for your hair, around 85 per cent of your hair is the growing phase with 15 per cent either resting, shedding or moving back to regrow.

‘However with telogen effluvium this can effectively switch, leaving a very thin covering of hair on the head. Fortunately, with correct diagnosis and treatment, a good recovery can be obtained.’

Hair loss is one of the long term health problems reported by Covid-19 patients. Eva said she personally has seen seven people who have experienced shedding after a coronavirus diagnosis.

Acute TE does not always require treatment and can improve on its own if the trigger factor has been removed. For example, if Covid-19 has indeed been the main cause for the condition and the patient has recovered, the hair is likely to improve of its own accord within three to six months. 

If short, tapered hairs of similar length can be seen across the entire scalp, this is a sign of regrowth.  

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