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Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the planet. 2020 will go down in history as one of the most bizarre in history, from the immediate health effects and number of deaths as a result of Covid-19 to the untold economic damage to economies around the world. Millions lost their jobs as countries shut down and many are still not back to work. As second waves occur around the world, we live in an uncertain world, waiting for a vaccine and hoping for a cure but not knowing if or when that will ever come.
In truth, many of us have been living a half-existence since March. There was a novelty for many of staying at home, exploring their neighbourhoods by exercising within prescribed limits, baking banana bread and enjoying the lack of a commute to work as we grappled with Zoom, Teams, Hangouts etiquette. Family Zoom quizzes and online cocktail nights were the norm and we all got a lot better at online shopping.
All of this was fine for a while, because this was going to end, as we entered lockdown other countries were coming out of it and as different areas of the UK and Ireland return to lockdown. But we soon realised that things were not reverting back to normal, things wouldn’t and won’t be going back to the way it was in those halcyon days in 2019. Workplaces advising staff to extend their working from home for a year at least, not a hope of a summer holiday and our lives curtailed to some extent for everyone.
Mental Health consequences
Humans were not designed to live this way, we are a social species and need human interaction. The lack of human contact takes its toll after a period of time, especially when there’s little end in sight to that isolation. Doctors are reporting an increase in patients presenting with mental health difficulties as a result of Covid19 and the restrictions associated with it.
Stress takes its toll on the body. It can affect your sleep, leading to poorer quality sleep which can exacerbate the problem. It can also have an effect on your appetite, with some people eating less and others comfort eating a whole lot more. Some people can develop digestive symptoms consistent with irritable bowel syndrome.
Interestingly, increased period of stress can quite literally make your hair fall out - (consider using some/all of the piecespiece below here) and doctors are reporting an increased number of patients complaining of hair loss over the past few months. This is usually due to a relatively common condition called Telogen Effluvium, where the hair cycle shifts into a shedding phase following prolonged periods of physical and psychological stress.
There has been a large rise in people struggling with these issues and needing psychological support over the past six months. A large part of the mental distress associated with Covid-19 is to do with the fact that there’s no end in sight. People are worried about contracting Covid. They’re worried about their family members getting it and getting sick from it, they’re worried about a vaccine being developed, they are worried about keeping their jobs, their relationships. People are missing their friends and loved ones, they are missing hugs and handshakes and knowing how to act around other people. None of this is natural. All of this is surreal. All of this is stressful. People need a break. And there’s no end in sight right now.
So what can we do?
Right now there’s no cure and there’s no vaccine for Coronavirus, so all we can do is wait. But rather than waiting in limbo, it’s really important that we learn how to continue to thrive rather than just survive. It’s important to delineate work time from downtime and to maintain some structure to your day. It’s important to eat well and to make sure to give yourself some time for you, even if it’s getting out for a walk for 45 minutes each day to dust off the cobwebs. Try to plan or try out something new that you haven’t done before, get to know your own area. If you’re down, talk to someone about it. If you’re worried about any symptoms, physical or mental, talk to your GP about it, there’s lots of help out there.
Life has utterly changed, and for how long, we just don’t know.
Hair Loss and Covid19 - About Telogen Effluvium
Reports are emerging about the longer term consequences of coronavirus infection as we learn more about the disease and its effects, with a growing list of longer term sequelae being experienced by patients. One such consequence experienced by a growing number of people who have had Covid-19 is increased levels of hair loss in the months after coronavirus infection.
Hair grows in cycles, with some hair in growth phase (anagen) and some in shedding phase (telogen). We typically lose 50 - 100 hair every day, where hairs make way for new healthier hairs. A condition called Telogen Effluvium, can extend this shedding phase during times of physiological and possibly psychological distress and lead to increasing levels of hair loss. This has been postulated as the cause for increased levels of hair loss following a Covid19 infection, but the phenomenon is poorly understood at this point.
Telogen Effluvium is a relatively common condition. In fact, it is very commonly seen in women following pregnancy, where lots of hair is kept in growth phase (anagen) leading to improved quality of hair during pregnancy, which results in increased hair loss 2-3 months after pregnancy. With Telogen Effluvium, an increased amount of shedding is noticeable on combing hair or in the plughole after washing. In this phase, there is a shifting of the hair growth cycle, with increased number of hairs in the telogen phase, leading to increased hair loss. This phase seems to occur anywhere from 2-3 months following a stressful event and can last for six to twelve months. In some people, the hair loss can be permanent. It’s unclear as to the exact cause of the hair loss, whether it is hormonal or relating to blood supply to the hair itself, however it can cause considerable psychological distress for those experiencing it, which itself could exacerbate the hair loss.
Before treatment, it is important to ensure the hair loss is not due to any other cause such as thyroid disease or a deficiency in vitamins/minerals or is not another type of hair loss such as alopecia areata, which can also come about following stressful events.. Treating telogen effluvium is as much about looking after your body and mind as it is about treating the hair loss specifically. Topical treatments such as minoxidil 5% solution can help with blood flow to the scalp, as well as nutrients such as Biotin which will ensure that your hair has the tools it needs to grow. However managing stress is also key, whether it’s removing the stressor or looking at techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga or exercise, all of which are proven to improve stress levels and well-being. Remember that hair regrowth is a slow process and can take a number of months to see the benefits of any treatment.