Hair Loss

The Surprising Link Between COVID-19 and Hair Loss

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed nearly 200,00 people in the US alone as of September, 2020. It causes wide range of unpleasant and potentially dangerous symptoms, including fever and chills, headaches, fatigue, and confusion, to name a few. Some COVID patients have also reported another bothersome but otherwise innocuous condition: hair loss.

Even though the CDC’s official list of COVID-19 symptoms doesn’t include hair loss, dermatologists across the country have documented cases of COVID-related hair loss in their patients.

Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic, notes that she’s seen many COVID patients experience hair loss, often two or three months after they’ve been diagnosed with the illness.

In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about hair loss as it relates to COVID-19. I’ll begin with a short q&A session, review a celebrity case study, discuss the treatment options, explain why bald men may be more likely to die as a result of a COVID infection, and much more. Let’s get started.

Is COVID-related hair Loss Common?

Effectively, patients who suffer from hair loss as a result of a COVID-19 infection are experiencing a form of stress-related hair loss, also known as telogen effluvium. Some other causes of the condition include extreme weight loss, diet changes, pregnancy, physical or psychological trauma, and surgery.

How Long Does it Last?

Cases of telogen effluvium typically last anywhere between 6 and 9 months. The problem usually resolves on its own.

More Info on Telogen Effluvium & The Hair Growth Cycle

There are three phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen (growing), catogen (resting) and telogen (shedding). Telogen effluvium disrupts the hair growth cycle and leads to mass shedding. In a normal, non-balding person, about 90% of hair is in the anagen or growing state at any given time.

In patients with Telogen effluvium, up to 50% of the hairs go into the telogen or shedding phase, leading to dramatic thinning in some cases.

Celebrity Case Study

Actress Alyssa Milano had a viral post recently where she discussed her hair loss, which she attributed to a prior Covid-19 struggle. A short video from that post is below.

General Management Tips

Maintaining a balanced diet may help expedite your recovery to some degree.

Iron, biotin and vitamin D all help facilitate hair growth. If you’re deficient in any of those vitamins, your hair loss may worsen or even become permanent if you’re also experiencing another form of hair loss simultaneously, such as androgenic alopecia, AKA pattern hair loss.

Minoxidil is sometimes prescribed in cases of telogen effluvium.

Dermatologists generally advise their telogen effluvium patients to continue their normal hair-care routines.However, If you notice skin irritation or any other dermatological symptoms on your scalp, such as burning, pain, or flaking, be sure to speak with a specialist if possible.

COVID-19 and Pattern Hair Loss

During the early stages of the pandemic, Chinese researchers noted that bald men diagnosed with COVID-19 experienced particularly high mortality rates.

According to Carlos Brown, a professor at Brown University, baldness is a “perfect predictor” of severity in coronavirus cases. He asserts that androgens, male sex hormones, provide a gateway for the virus to enter our cells and body.

In Spain, a small study found that a shocking 79% of men admitted to a hospital for Coronavirus were bald.

“Gabrin sign”

Named after Frank Gabrin, the first doctor to die of COVID-19 in the United States — who happened to be bald — Gabrin Sign refers to the baldness-covid link.

Finasteride for COVID-19?

Researchers have speculated that given that androgens may exacerbate covid-19 symptoms, popular anti-androgen medications, sometimes used to treat hair loss, may help treat Covid-19 as well. No studies exist to confirm or refute this hypothesis.

Of course, the most popular hair loss medication is finasteride, though other anti-androgens such as dutasteride, a particularly potent medication that reduces DHT levels by about 98%, are also prescribed fairly frequently “off label” by physicians.

Coronavirus and Hair Loss – Conclusion

There appears to be more than a casual link between COVID-19 and hair loss. The condition is stress-related and typically resolves on its own.

Patients with advanced baldness may be more susceptible to death due to coronavirus complications.

If you have a story to share as it relates to this article, I’d love to hear it, and I hope you’re all staying safe.

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You can follow a few hair hygiene tips to make your hair less likely to fall out: Avoid hairstyles that pull on the hair - Avoid high-heat hair styling tools - Don't chemically treat or bleach your hair - Use a shampoo that's mild and suited for your hair - Use a soft brush made from natural fibers - Try low-level light therapy.

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