March 2, 2024

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New Study Reveals 6.4 Times Higher Risk of Hair Loss After COVID-19 Infection

New Study Reveals 6.4 Times Higher Risk of Hair Loss After COVID-19 Infection



New Study Reveals 6.4 Times Higher Risk of Hair Loss After COVID-19 Infection

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing evidence suggests that the virus not only affects the respiratory system but also impacts various tissues and organs within the human body.

The World Health Organization defines “Long COVID” as the persistence of symptoms three months after a COVID-19 infection, lasting at least two months and not explained by other diagnoses. Common long COVID symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, recent research indicates a link between COVID-19 infection and hair loss.

On January 10, 2024, researchers from Chonbuk National University Medical School in South Korea published a study titled “Risk of Alopecia Areata After COVID-19” in the “JAMA Dermatology” journal.

The study revealed that individuals who had contracted the COVID-19 virus faced an 82% increased risk of developing alopecia areata and a 6.4 times higher risk of experiencing telogen effluvium compared to those who had not been infected.

New Study Reveals 6.4 Times Higher Risk of Hair Loss After COVID-19 Infection

Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease characterized by localized or widespread hair loss, ranking as the second most common hair loss disorder globally, following androgenetic alopecia. It results from the immune system mistakenly attacking and damaging hair follicles, leading to partial or complete hair loss.

Telogen effluvium is a common type of hair loss related to the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. Typically, hair goes through three stages: growth, rest, and shedding. In telogen effluvium, a large number of hair follicles enter the resting phase simultaneously, causing an excessive shedding of hair within a specific time frame.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from over 500,000 individuals, including 259,369 COVID-19 patients and an equal number of uninfected controls, obtained from the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The analysis focused on the association between COVID-19 infection and the incidence of alopecia areata.

The findings indicated that individuals who had been infected with the COVID-19 virus faced an 82% increased risk of developing alopecia areata and a 6.4 times higher risk of experiencing telogen effluvium compared to those who had not been infected.

Further analysis based on different types of alopecia revealed incidence rates of 35.94 cases and 7.24 cases per 10,000 person-years for localized and widespread hair loss, respectively, in COVID-19 patients. In contrast, the control group had incidence rates of 19.43 cases and 4.18 cases per 10,000 person-years, indicating a significantly higher risk of hair loss among COVID-19 patients.

Among individuals aged 20 and above, both male and female COVID-19 patients showed a significant increase in the incidence of alopecia. In COVID-19 patients, the incidence rates per 10,000 person-years were 70.53 cases and 12.39 cases for localized and widespread hair loss, respectively, compared to control group rates of 52.37 cases and 8.97 cases per 10,000 person-years.

Furthermore, the study noted a significant increase in the overall incidence and prevalence of alopecia in South Korea compared to the pre-pandemic period.

The researchers suggested that while factors like psychological stress may contribute to increased alopecia rates during a pandemic, the study results support the potential role of COVID-19 infection in the development of alopecia.

Regarding potential mechanisms, the researchers hypothesized that the COVID-19 virus might trigger a cytokine storm, leading to the development of autoimmune diseases such as alopecia.

However, the study emphasizes that it only indicates an association between COVID-19 infection and alopecia, and further research is needed to validate the association across different populations and elucidate causation.

In conclusion, this nationwide population-based study suggests that COVID-19 infection may lead to specific types of hair loss, necessitating further research to uncover the underlying mechanisms.

Link to the paper:

DOI: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2023.5559

New Study Reveals 6.4 Times Higher Risk of Hair Loss After COVID-19 Infection

(source:internet, reference only)


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