Madison, Wisconsin - UW Health dermatologists are seeing increased cases of hair loss in patients who have recovered from COVID-19.
Dr. Apple Bodemer, an integrative dermatologist at UW Health, says the influx started in the summer of 2020 and increased as COVID-19 surged around Dane County in the fall.
"Prior to COVID-19, I was seeing two to four hair loss patients per month. Recently I have been seeing up to five or six a day," said Bodemer. "The type of hair loss associated with the physical and emotional stress related to COVID-19 is called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium commonly occurs after a physical or psychological stressor such as a heart attack, car accident, having a baby, loss of a loved one and recently COVID-19."
Bodemer says hair is a non-essential structure so when the body is under stress, hair growth is put on hold. Typically, it starts to regrow about four to six months later and that is when shedding (hair loss) happens. The hair loss is actually good news because it means new hair is starting to grow within the follicle pushing the old resting hair out. Bodemer says significant hair loss up to 50 percent is not uncommon.
Hair will grow back in 6 to 12 months, but it can still be upsetting for patients.
"In my practice, I talk to my patients about mindfulness, breath work and recommend supplements that help support the adrenal glands, so people are better able to handle the physical effects of stress," said Bodemer.
Bodemer says Rogaine is an option but that could take several months to kick in and hair might be growing back naturally at that point.
If hair loss persists for six months or more, you should see your doctor because telogen effluvium can also be caused by thyroid disease, iron deficiency or other undiagnosed medical conditions.
When you need urgent care, video visits give you and your family easy access to a provider in minutes on your computer, tablet or smartphone.