I’ve recently had some people ask me what it means to have an acute telogen effluvium diagnosis. When I was experiencing hair loss years ago, I’d never heard that term. Basically back then, it was considered telogen effluvium if the shedding resolved within 3 months and it became chronic telogen effluvium if the shedding continued on past six months. Today, it seems that the term acute telogen effluvium is used to describe hair loss that resolves or ends within 6 months, while the term chronic telogen effluvium is reserved for shedding that tops 9 months.
In short, if your specialist suspects that you have acute telogen effluvium, you could expect that the shedding will stop and regrowth will have become noticeable within half a year (and sometimes sooner.) Typically, an acute TE diagnosis comes when you have an easily identifiable trigger that you know has completely ended. Examples are pregnancy, surgery, a resolved illness, dieting, etc. These things don’t typically linger. They have a distinct start and stop time.
There are some ongoing triggers which make chronic TE more likely like an unresolved medical condition that is hard to get under control, ongoing stress, or a situation in which you can’t identify the trigger.
There are some instances where accute TE does have an easily identifiable trigger, but the shedding is so aggressive that the follicles become inflamed and that inflammation becomes a secondary trigger so that the shedding becomes chronic. In this situation, topicals meant to combat inflammation can be useful.
I know that it can sound daunting to know that you are going to be shedding for a specified number of weeks or months. But take things one day at a time. I had chronic TE twice and my hair now looks pretty normal, although I would not have believed this when I was in the middle of all of the shedding. I have recently looked at pictures of myself during the time period when I was actually shedding and honestly, my hair does not look as bad as I remembered or imagined it. Yes, I certainly lost a noticeable amount of volume, but I got pretty good at camouflaging it. Plus, much of the time, you are actively regrowing hair as you are losing it. When a hair sheds out, there is another hair right behind it. So while you may be losing hair at a faster rate than the regrowth can replace it, it is not as if there is nothing to replace the lost hairs. Acute TE is no fun, but it’s certainly better than CTE or even untreated AGA, since most people notice a great deal of improvement in the hair’s appearance within six months to a year after the shedding started. All hair loss conditions can be addressed, but acute TE typically requires only time, addressing your trigger as quickly as you can, and properly caring for your hair and scalp.