Hair loss after surgery is most often caused by telogen effluvium (TE), a disorder that occurs when your regular hair follicle cycle is disrupted.
In most cases, you lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day on average. But some health events, including surgeries and underlying medical problems, might cause hair follicles to stop producing hairs as they should in certain people.
There is good news in that, while hair loss following surgery is possible, it is often only temporary. Discuss any concerns you have regarding hair loss following your surgery with your dermatologist, including potential risk factors and treatment alternatives.
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What factors contribute to hair loss after surgery?
For most of your life, your follicles are in the process of growing new hair. This process can range from few months to several years at a time. Hair follicles do not continually generate new hairs; instead, they cycle through resting stages known as telogens, which are periods of reduced activity.
In accordance with the American Hair Loss Association, it is believed that 10 to 20% of your hair follicles are now in a telogen condition at any one point in time.
If the proportion of telogen hairs is higher than 20%, this is a sign of telogen effluvium, which is one of the most frequent types of hair loss in men and women.
Surgery can occasionally cause your hair follicles to rest for a longer period of time than they would normally. Instead of the big bald patches associated with alopecia areata, you are more likely to see gradually thinner hair as a result of the condition.
The following are some of the ways that surgery might induce TE-related hair loss:
Surgery is seen as an intrusive procedure that may place a great deal of strain on your body — as well as your mind — throughout the procedure.
According to the American Skin Association, hair loss following a significant stressful incident of this kind is most likely to occur between 3 and 6 months after the occurrence.
For hair growth to occur, your body needs specific nutrients, such as:
During a stressful event, such as COVID-19, your body may redirect these nutrients away from your essential organs to conserve energy. This might result in hair thinning as well as TE.
According to a 2012 study review, this form of hair loss occurs as a result of your head remaining in the same position for several hours at a time. While not prevalent, it does occur. This has the potential to reduce blood supply to your hair follicles.
Because your head isn’t in one place for an extended period of time during brief treatments, positional alopecia is less prevalent. According to the same study analysis mentioned above, this form of hair loss has been documented most frequently among patients who have undergone heart surgery.
Positional alopecia is also a possibility following significant reconstructive operations because of the amount of time spent in one posture after the procedure.
While the link between anesthesia and hair loss is still debatable, some doctors believe there may be a link, particularly with surgeries lasting several hours.
It is believed that prolonged anesthetic periods may contribute to TE-related hair loss by inducing a reduction in the number of cells produced. Hair follicle development may be inhibited as a result of slower cellular division. Clinical investigations, on the other hand, have not supported this claim.
The type of anesthetic drug that is used may also have an impact on hair loss. Hypotensive anesthesia, which is commonly used in craniofacial operations and shown to be associated with positional alopecia, according to a 2012 review of the literature
Hypotensive anesthesia is still used to reduce blood loss during some operations, such as dental surgery, despite all patients not accepting it well.
Adverse effects of medication
Hair loss may occur after taking some drugs following surgery, particularly if you are allergic to the medications in question. According to the American Skin Association, you should consult your doctor if you are using any of the following medications that have been associated with TE:
- Anti-seizure medications
- Anti-thyroid medications
Type of surgery
It’s also crucial to think about where you’ll have your operation. While all operations have the potential to result in TE and hair loss, if your incisions are made on your scalp, you may be at a higher risk of hair follicles shutting down as a result of the procedure.
In a recent research study, it was shown that head and neck operations and the use of hypotensive anesthesia were associated with an increased risk of positional alopecia, which can result in hair loss.
How to avoid hair loss after surgery?
While it is not possible to completely avoid hair loss following surgery, you may be able to reduce the harshness of the consequences of TE. This includes the following:
- Consuming a well-balanced diet that is rich in plant-based foods
- Frequent physical activity
- More restful sleep
- Coping mechanisms for dealing with stress
Avoid nutrition deficit
Nutritional inadequacies may have a role in hair loss, whether or whether the condition is treated surgically.
Researchers have identified several micronutrients as potentially maintaining healthy hair follicles and, consequently, regular hair growth cycles. These include the following micronutrients:
- Anti-oxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E
- Vitamin D
Eat high-quality protein
It has also been shown that enough protein and iron intake are associated with good hair development, according to the AADA (American Academy of Dermatology Association).
Foods high in these nutrients may be beneficial in reducing hair loss, although it is uncertain if any single diet may completely prevent surgery-induced hair loss.
A routine blood test can indicate if you are lacking in any of the nutrients listed above, and your doctor may advise you to consume specific foods or take specific supplements as a consequence of the results.
However, you should not take vitamins on your own unless you have a proven nutritional deficit in your body. According to a 2017 study review, doing so may raise your chances of experiencing worsened hair loss as a result of toxicity in your environment. Before undergoing surgery, discuss your worries regarding hair loss with your doctor.
Ask your doctor
In addition, it is critical that you and your doctor address the risk of surgery-related hair loss prior to having your procedure.
Especially if you anticipate a lengthy operation or intensive care treatment, you may want to inquire about the medical team’s strategy for head-turning schedules to assist prevent positional alopecia.
Your doctor can assist you in determining any other risk factors for hair loss and, if necessary, can recommend a treatment plan to help decrease it. The prevention methods outlined above, as well as any prospective post-surgery therapies, may all be included in this process.
How to treat hair loss after surgery?
While it may be alarming to see thinning hair or increased hair loss following your operation, there are actions you may take in consultation with your doctor to help manage the problem.
A dermatologist can assess whether a home therapy or a professional treatment is the most effective choice, although either approach can take many months to fully manifest its benefits.
- Laser therapy
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
- Other pharmaceutical hair loss drugs
Although the likelihood of having hair loss following surgery has not been well-established, it is conceivable that this severe stressor will interfere with healthy hair follicle cycles, resulting in temporary hair loss in some individuals.
Other causes that contribute to hair loss include:
- The sort of surgery you’ve had
- The general state of your health
- The way you live your life
In the majority of cases, hair loss following surgery will disappear over a period of several months.
If you have hair loss following surgery, consult with a dermatologist about various treatments and strategies to re-establish control over your hair growth cycle.