“As usual, I freshened up to start my day. When I was combing, a handful of hair just fell off my scalp and I freaked out. I was too shocked to realise what was happening.”
23-year-old Reshma tested positive for COVID in May and struggled to recover from the illness. Two months later, she experienced a terrible hair fall, leading her into a depression. But she is not alone.
Doctors are reporting a rise in patients complaining of hair loss after fighting COVID.
“Post-COVID hair loss can happen to anyone irrespective of gender, severity of the infection and other factors. The extent of hair loss differs from person to person and stress has a large role to play. This is mostly seen after the second month of recovery from COVID,” says Dr Jyotsna, trichologist and dermatologist.
This condition is termed telogen effluvium and usually occurs after a stressful event like delivery, severe viral infection or any other traumatic experience. After the growth and resting phase, eventually the hair moves into the shedding phase. Due to immense stress during COVID, hair shedding happens in large volumes and poor diet conditions can aggravate the loss.
Dr Jyotsna observed that during the second wave of the pandemic, she received a higher number of patients with post-COVID hair loss, compared to the first wave. This, she says, could be due to the mutation of the virus in the second wave which swept across the country.
Doctors also found a sizeable number of patients going through signs of depression and reluctance to face their family and peers due to visible bald patches. "An alarming number of people are slipping into depression during and after COVID. While image-conscious people find it hard to cope with hair loss post COVID, we try to make them understand that the condition is temporary and even refer them to doctors for medical help. Mental health in this pandemic period should not be taken lightly,” says Dr Goutami Madiraju, consultant neuropsychiatrist.
Medical procedures include taking supplements containing essential nutrients, low level laser therapy to help stimulate blood circulation on the scalp and platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP). In the PRP therapy, platelet-rich plasma is extracted from the blood samples of patients and injected into the scalp.
Such treatment is supplemented by a range of measures to help them de-stress. From providing reassurance to anxious patients to offering lifestyle management advice like proper sleep, physical activities, including necessary proteins, fruits, antioxidants etc in their diet, doctors are trying everything to treat those with post-COVID hair loss.
Ultimately, moving to a healthier lifestyle is key, say experts. This would not only help people overcome post-COVID complications like hair loss but also maintain their physical and mental well-being going forward.