With long Covid sufferers said to be in the millions worldwide, one doctor from New Delhi has warned that problems related to hair loss have risen two-fold. Shahin Nooreyezdan, consultant in cosmetic and plastic surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi said hair loss is caused by post-inflammation and could last up to three months. He told The Sun: “Post COVID-19 inflammation has been a major contributor here.”
“The deficiencies caused by a compromised nutritional intake, sudden changes in weight, hormonal disturbances and reduced vitamin D and B12 levels are some of the major reasons for the large volumes of hair loss post-COVID-19.”
Telogen effluvium (TE) is when someone experiences hair loss due to a change in the number of hair follicles that are actively growing hair.
This leads to hair thinning on the scalp, which could be limited to one area or all over.
In the most severe cases on TE, hair loss will spread to other regions of the body such as the eyebrows.
There has been a plethora of research to suggest that hair loss is a symptom of long Covid, despite it not being included on the NHS long Covid symptom list.
A study published in January 2021 by medical journal The Lancet found that 22 percent of patients suffered from hair loss six-months after being discharged from hospital in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.
Another online study earlier this year which surveyed 1,500 Covid survivors, found that 27 percent of people had experienced some form of hair loss.
Another expert told the International Business Times that the reason hair loss occurs is because the growth of hair follicles is halted due to the infection
Reasons for this hair loss could be due to a multitude of things, with diet, stress, weight loss, hormonal change and severe fever all being risk factors.
According to Medical News Today the hair cycle has three phases:
- Anagen or growth phase
- Catagen or transitional phase
- Telogen or resting phase
TE is associated with the telogen phase meaning fewer hairs enter the other two stages, leading to hair shedding.
Dr Shahin pointed to the fact that some people also struggle to eat with Covid, which can deplete their nutrient reserves, explaining why hair loss sometimes occurs.
Therefore, experts explained that those recovering from Covid should pay more attention to their diet and try to supplement the vitamins and minerals that have been lost due to infection and loss of appetite.
A diet high in protein and iron as well as vitamin B-6 and B-12 is the best to promote healthy hair growth and crash dieting should be avoided.
Hair care experts say a protein rich diet produces more keratin, as this is what mostly makes up hair follicles, enabling your hair to repair and grow.
Those experiencing hair loss should also avoid heat styling as it makes hair fragile and under further stress.
It is important to understand the difference between TE and anagen effluvium (AE) hair loss.
AE hair loss can take hold much quicker and is far more dramatic, with hair falling out in clumps.
People who are undergoing cancer treatments or take medication that attacks and treats tumours are more likely to experience AE hair loss.
Both TE and AE hair loss is not permanent and hair is likely to return within six months to a year.