If you have had surgery in recent months, you may notice more hair loss than usual. The large clumps of hair on the hair brush can immediately hit the panic button. But do not worry. It is normal. This could be your body adjusting to surgery and its side effects.
Major surgery causes physiological stress, causing hair loss. Usually, your hair will grow back within 3-6 months, and you can make this process easier and faster. Scroll down to find out ways to deal with hair loss after surgery and how to reverse it.
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Yes, surgery can cause temporary hair loss or telogen effluvium. After a major surgery, the body experiences tremendous stress. This may interfere with the hair growth cycle and cause hair loss or thinning (1).
Hair loss is often common in people who have undergone bariatric or gastric sleeve surgery (2). Stress and nutritional deficiencies are believed to be the major reasons for such hair loss. Once these factors are addressed, hair loss stops (1).
The hair cycle is a complex biological process where the hair follicles undergo three major stages (1):
- Anagen (growth phase lasting for 2-6 years)
- Catagen (transitional phase lasting for 2-3 weeks)
- Telogen (dormant phase lasting for about three months)
In the normal hair cycle, follicles on the scalp are replaced once every 3-5 years. However, during telogen effluvium, the hair follicles in the anagen or growth phase are triggered to enter the telogen phase prematurely (1). This causes hair thinning and shedding. What are these triggers? Find out below.
What Causes Hair Loss After Surgery?
Physiological stress is the major cause of hair loss after surgery (1). However, the exact mechanism is not clear. It is speculated that the body diverts all its resources (nutrients and energy) to keep the vital organs functioning, while less important functions, such as hair growth, are put on hold temporarily.
The surgical procedure followed by recovery puts the body under substantial physiological stress. It is widely believed that the anesthetics used during the surgery can trigger hair loss. However, there is no scientific data to back this claim.
Apart from the physiological process, the uncertainty involved and other psychological factors can take a toll on the mental health of the individual. Research indicates that stress can induce inflammatory effects that can inhibit hair growth, cause hair damage, and induce catagen (3).
The science behind how this happens is still in the nascent stages. It is speculated that stress acts as a trigger that signals the hair follicle to go dormant or enter telogen effluvium. Once your body starts to recover, the hair cycle normalizes. There are a few ways to speed up the recovery process and reverse post-surgical hair loss.
How To Reverse Hair Loss After Surgery
Thus, lifestyle changes, such as following a well-balanced diet and having a dedicated hair care routine can help you regrow your lost hair in 3-6 months.
You may also take vitamin and mineral supplements like iron and zinc to reverse hair loss (4). This is especially helpful after bariatric or weight loss surgery.
Generally, dermatologists recommend medication to stimulate hair growth if the hair follicle is still active. One such commonly prescribed drug for treating various hair disorders(telogen effluvium) is Minoxidil (5).
Consult your doctor if the hair loss persists or worsens. It might indicate a serious medical condition. Here are a few more tips for managing hair loss after major surgery.
Tips For Dealing With Hair Loss After Surgery
- Get Enough Sleep
Recuperating from a surgical procedure takes time. The body heals, repairs, and recovers mostly during sleep. Hence, ensure that you sleep well to speed up the recovery process. Lack of sleep will cause unwanted stress and may worsen hair loss.
- Avoid Stress
Try to keep stress at bay. Practice self-care techniques, such as yoga and meditation, and indulge in activities that may help you relax. This will ensure speedy recovery. Your hair starts growing normally once you start adjusting post-surgery.
- Follow A Healthy Diet
Consume a protein-rich diet since proteins make up the bulk of your hair structure. Foods, such as eggs, lean meat, seafood, leafy vegetables, and lentils will help replenish the essential amino acids for hair growth. Ensure that your diet is rich in zinc, iron, and vitamins. Whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds are great options to fight most nutritional deficiencies (6).
- Avoid Stressing The Scalp
Tight hairstyles can put stress on the hair follicles and cause hair loss. Avoid hairstyles like tight braids and ponytails.
Hair loss is common after surgery and is triggered by the stress on the body. As the body adapts and recovers, your hair loss will stop. Meanwhile, you can try to minimize stress by following a healthy diet and get adequate sleep. If the problem persists, consult a doctor or dermatologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will hair fall out after anesthesia?
It is normal to lose hair for 2-4 months (telogen effluvium) after using anesthesia during surgery. Consult a doctor if the condition worsens.
Is hair loss a side effect of anesthesia?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of anesthesia can cause hair loss. There are no scientific studies to support this observation.
How long does hair loss last after illness?
You can experience hair loss for 2- 4 months ((telogen effluvium) after a prolonged illness. Your hair will start growing once you have recovered from the illness unless there is a serious underlying medical condition.
- Telogen Effluvium: A Review
- Hair Loss After Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy
- Burden of hair loss: stress and the underestimated psychosocial impact of telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia
- The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
- Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review
- Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use
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