By: Ava Alderman: I sometimes hear from people who are really anxious to know if they have telogen effluvium (TE) or androgenic alopecia (AGA.) One reason that this is important is that sometimes, TE resolves on its own, while AGA needs treatment in order to get a good result. So, most people strongly hope that they have shedding that will resolve rather than hair loss which is likely permanent with out treatment. This distinction can be difficult to make because both of these conditions have hair loss as the main symptom. However, there are some distinctions worth noting which can lead to some questions worth asking yourself, which I will discuss below.
Do You Have A Trigger That Started The Whole Thing?: Often, when you have TE, there will be a trigger that you can pretty easily pinpoint. Anything that causes your body to store it’s reserves due to stress can be a trigger. Common examples are starting or starting new medicines, severe dieting, physical illness, giving birth, or even using new styling products. Keep in mind that the trigger should have occurred around 2 -3 months before the shedding started, so you may have to think back into the past. But typically, if you have shedding that will resolve, you can look back examine your life style or your habits and figure out what started this whole process.
Is Your Longer Regrowth Miniaturized?: Miniaturized hair is often noticeable when you have AGA. You may notice that your regrowth is coming in quite thin and has a flyaway or peach fuzz texture. Now, with this said, it can be common for all regrowth to be a little bit thin when it begins to grow. So if your regrowth is still less than a couple of inches long, this probably isn’t the best sample to choose. Instead, I advise examining one of your mature spent hairs (that has already shed out) and then identifying a regrowth hair that has clearly been around for a couple of months. If you compare the texture of the two hairs, they should be somewhat similar. But if you notice that the new hair is significantly more thin and texture, then this is something you may want to keep an eye on. Although I have heard of cases of miniaturization with chronic cases of telogen effluvium, it is more common with AGA.
Do You See Any Indications Of Excess Androgens?: People with AGA will often have other symptoms like an oily, itchy scalp, or even facial skin that is a bit shiny due to the excess oils. Also, if you look at your scalp under bright lights try to take notice as to whether you see a sheen at the follicles which would be indicate or excess oils which is sometimes indicative of an androgen issue. This isn’t to say that people with an effluvium don’t also have issues with their scalp or skin, but it is more likely with AGA. And often, people will androgen driven loss have also dealt with excess oil on other areas of their body.
The Bottom Line: Sometimes, it comes down to whether you want to wait to see if the loss resolves on its own or if you want to have a specialists look at it. It can be a challenge to find someone who will take you seriously and who is willing to actually test rather than just make assumptions and to offer reassurances that are hard to take when you are still shedding. But it is worth it to keep looking until you find some relief because I know how difficult this process is.
I know because I went through this myself. There was a time when I was convinced that I had lasting, permanent hair loss that would never end. But I kept going back to my triggers and knowing that I was missing something somewhere. After this, I started seeing an improvement. But, it was a long, hard, frustrating journey, especially in the beginning. If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at http://stop-hair-loss-in-women.com/