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Why Does Anesthesia Make Your Hair Fall Out? Here’s What You Should Remember

By Jessica Rivera

Updated On

Fact Checked By: SWA Research Team

The article herein was crafted with AI assistance under human supervision.

When you had surgery, did you ever find that you were losing more hair than usual? It’s not just you. Many people report hair loss in the weeks and months following a procedure requiring anesthesia. But why does this happen? Let’s take a closer look at the surprising connection between anesthesia and hair loss.

How Anesthesia Affects The Body?

How Anesthesia Affects The Body

Anesthesia is a type of medication used to prevent pain and discomfort during surgery. It works by making you unconscious so you can’t feel what’s going on. There are different types of anesthesia, but they all affect the body in similar ways.

Anesthesia slows down many of your body’s normal functions, like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. This “slow down” is what allows doctors to safely operate. While anesthesia is very safe, it’s still a major stress on the body. As it turns out, the physical stress caused by anesthesia is thought to be a key reason for hair loss after surgery.

Key Takeaways

  1. Anesthesia and surgery stress can prematurely shift hair into the resting phase, causing noticeable shedding 2-4 months later.
  2. Hormonal changes, medications, nutritional deficiencies, and psychological stress from surgery may also trigger hair loss.
  3. Temporary post-op hair loss is common but typically resolves within 6-9 months with proper hair care, diet, and stress management. See a doctor if shedding continues beyond 9 months.

The Hair Growth Cycle

To understand how anesthesia impacts hair, it helps to know a bit about how hair normally grows. Each hair on your head goes through a three-stage cycle:

  1. Anagen (growth phase): Most of the hairs are actively growing. This phase lasts 2-7 years.
  2. Catagen (transition phase): Over 2-3 weeks, hair growth slows and the follicle shrinks.
  3. Telogen (resting phase): The follicle rests for about 3 months before the hair falls out and the cycle starts again.

Normally, each hair is at a different point in the cycle, so you don’t notice hairs falling out. But certain stressors can shock a large number of hairs into the telogen phase at once – a condition known as telogen effluvium. And that’s where anesthesia comes into play.

How Anesthesia Causes Hair Loss?

There are a few theories for how exactly the stress of anesthesia triggers telogen effluvium:

  1. Anesthesia puts physical stress on the body, which may shock hair follicles into the telogen phase early.
  2. Some types of anesthesia may have toxic effects on hair follicles.
  3. Anesthesia may disrupt the hair cycle by interfering with the normal functioning of hormones and proteins that regulate hair growth.
  4. Blood flow to hair follicles may be temporarily reduced during anesthesia, leading to follicle damage.

In most cases, it’s probably a combination of these factors that leads to hair shedding in the months after surgery. Depending on the individual, hair loss usually becomes noticeable 2-4 months after the procedure. This delay represents the time it takes for the hair to finish the telogen phase and fall out following the “shock” of anesthesia.

Other Surgery-Related Causes

It’s important to note that hair loss after surgery isn’t always due to anesthesia itself. There are a few other aspects of surgery that can contribute to telogen effluvium as well:

  1. Sudden hormonal changes: Surgeries that impact hormone levels, like a thyroidectomy, can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
  2. Medications: Certain medications used before, during, or after surgery may have negative effects on hair follicles.
  3. Nutritional deficiency: Not eating well before or after surgery can deprive your body of nutrients it needs to maintain healthy hair growth.
  4. Psychological stress: The emotional and mental stress associated with having surgery may also play a role in triggering hair loss, compounding the effects of physical stressors.

What You Can Do?

In most cases, post-surgery hair loss is not permanent. Once the stressor is removed, the hair follicles will eventually return to their normal growth cycle and the hair will start growing back.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to support the health of your hair and follicles:

  1. Eat a balanced diet rich in protein, iron, and other vitamins and minerals important for hair growth.
  2. Be gentle with your hair – avoid harsh treatments, excessive heat styling, and tight hairstyles that tug on the follicles.
  3. Manage stress through relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises. High stress prolongs telogen effluvium.
  4. Talk to your doctor about taking hair growth supplements like biotin or using over-the-counter topical treatments like minoxidil.

When To See A Doctor?

For most people, postoperative hair loss resolves on its own with time and self-care measures. But in some cases, the hair loss may be prolonged or particularly severe. If you’re still experiencing excessive hair shedding 6-9 months after surgery, it’s a good idea to follow up with your doctor.

In rare cases, the hair loss may be a symptom of a different underlying problem, like alopecia areata or female/male-pattern hair loss. A dermatologist can help determine if there are other causes at play and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Conclusion

While dealing with hair loss after surgery can be frustrating and even distressing, the good news is that the hair loss is usually temporary. By understanding how anesthesia and surgery-related stressors can shock hair follicles, you can take proactive steps to nourish and protect your hair through this transition period as you wait for your normal hair growth cycle to resume.

Has your hair ever fallen out after surgery? What helped you cope with this temporary but troubling side effect? Let us know in the comments below!

Jessica Rivera

Dr. Jessica Rivera has more than 10 years of experience in the cosmetic industry as a hair care specialist. As a licensed cosmetologist, she has an in-depth understanding of hair and scalp health and a strong desire to support others in achieving their hair goals. Dr. Jessica is also a reputable author and supplement reviewer, specializing in hair care products and ingredients. Her engaging and informative writing style makes complex topics accessible to a wide audience. Dr. Jessica is committed to assisting her readers in making well-informed decisions regarding their hair care routines in order to attain healthy, beautiful hair.

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