Telogen effluvium is a scalp disorder characterized by the thinning or shedding of hair resulting from the early entry of hair in the telogen phase (the resting phase of the hair follicle). Emotional or physiological stress may result in an alteration of the normal hair cycle and cause the disorder, with potential causes including eating disorders, fever, childbirth, chronic illness, major surgery, anemia, severe emotional disorders, crash diets, hypothyroidism, and drugs.
Diagnostic tests, which may be performed to verify the diagnosis, include a trichogram, trichoscopy and biopsy. Effluvium can present with similar appearance to alopecia totalis, with further distinction by clinical course, microscopic examination of plucked follicles, or biopsy of the scalp. Histology would show telogen hair follicles in the dermis with minimal inflammation in effluvium, and dense peribulbar lymphocytic infiltrate in alopecia totalis.
Vitamin D levels may also play a role in normal hair cycle.