Help, I’ve Had Surgery, Now I’m Losing My Hair!
When the body goes through a stressful or traumatic time, it leaves it mark on you, just like it may cause psychological changes in your life. Surgery, a time that can be trying both for your health and your nerves, can also cause unwanted side effects that you’re not prepared for. When you come out of surgery, you may be aware of certain complications, such as slow healing times or grogginess from your daily medications. However, like a surgical scar, there are other changes our body may undergo post-surgery. One of these side effects, which many people find startling or shocking, is post-surgery hair loss.
What is Post-Surgery Hair Loss?
Your doctor or surgeon probably won’t tell you that a small percentage of surgery patients lose their hair. It’s not a common side effect, but it’s also not unheard of in medical circles. When a person’s body goes through surgery, it’s similar to a traumatic event. Your body often diverts its resources to handle the trauma. Because of this, the normal hair cycle may be interrupted.
Most women and men who experience this type of hair loss after a major surgery are experiencing excessive shedding, also known as telogen effluvium. While it’s normal for you to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day, when you’re experiencing telogen effluvium, this number is usually doubled. This kind of hair loss is common when your body goes through extreme stress. In addition to surgery, people experience excessive shedding may do so in reaction to childbirth, a change in medications, severe anemia, or an illness that causes a high fever.
The hair loss won’t be instant. It usually will occur “out of nowhere” about six weeks to three months after the surgery. When it’s really bad, sometimes you will have clumps of hair coming out when you shower or brush you hair, no matter how gentle you are.
Can Telogen Effluvium Prevented?
Unfortunately, nobody knows which person will be susceptible to trauma-related hair loss, so there is little in the way of prevention available. The best thing you can do is eat a well balanced diet, with plenty of healthy nutrients. You should also take a multivitamin that has the daily nutrition you need, based on your age and gender. Biotin is a good source of nutrients to help make your skin, nails, and hair healthy and strong. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, make sure you get enough protein every day. You can do this by supplementing your food with a protein shake. Before you schedule surgery, you will often do labs. Ask the doctor to check for anemia well ahead of your surgery date so you can start supplementing iron if it’s low.
Coping With Post-Surgical Hair Loss
Nobody enjoys losing his or her hair, but it’s not the end of the world. Just like the parts of you that have surgery, your hair will need some time to recover and reboot the hair growth cycle. In the meantime, you may want to experiment with different ways to make your hair loss less noticeable. If you’re a man, you may want to don your favorite hat for a couple of weeks, or purchase a new one just for the occasion. If you’re a woman, you may want to experiment with clip-in extension or even a hairpiece to supplement your current hairstyle. Today’s beauty supply companies offer clip-on bangs, clip-on ponytails and an array of other real and artificial hair extensions.
Just remember that your hair loss isn’t forever, and you can have a lot of fun creating a new “look” as you recover. Usually, hair loss caused by surgery grows back completely within 6 to 12 months.