Tense shoulders, clenched jaws, poor sleep, headaches, and even nausea are some of the most common manifestations of stress. However, stress can also contribute to hair loss and even disrupt the menstrual cycle, each of which can be a possible by-product of persistent stress. And persistent stress, along with the health consequences of Covid-19, has permeated the everyday reality of many people since the pandemic began.
Getting Covid-19 by itself can also cause hair loss. “It’s something that is not unusual,” explained Dr. Norman Rowe. “ Something is actually to be expected after … someone had COVID. “Dr. Rowe, a plastic surgeon, practices in New York City.
But why should Covid-19 change hair growth? Being sick is physically demanding. Viruses and bacteria are the invaders and the immune system is at war against them. This requires resources in the form of energy. And that energy has to come from somewhere, and sometimes it is directed away from the hair growth. “Any type of disease can put the body in a hyper-metabolic rate and in a stressful mode,” said Dr. Rowe. Even the flu can cause hair loss. Alopecia was common during the 1918 pandemic flu.
There is even a technical term for it called telogen effluvium. “Telogen” refers to one of the phases of hair growth. Just like a growing plant that sprouts, blooms, and then dies, hair has its own growth cycle. In people with telogen effluvium, hair growth suddenly stops growing and falls into this resting phase of hair growth. When new hair begins to grow, any dormant hair falls out abruptly, resembling hair loss.
Telogen effluvium can be caused by infection, surgery, crash dieting, or hormonal changes.
Even for people who aren’t infected with the coronavirus, Dr. Rowe that the collective stress most people live with could lead to alopecia (hair loss) on its own.
Good news, the hair will be back. According to Dr. Rowe is “generally reversible” for stress-related hair loss, although things don’t go back to normal overnight. “Usually … two, three, four months after the event, your hair won’t be lost and you will usually be back where you were after six or eight months,” he explained.
For stress-related hair loss, timing may be the best treatment. For some people with malnutrition, diet does matter, but Dr. Rowe explained that there isn’t much a doctor can do for a patient with stress-related hair loss other than stress management. “You really don’t have to do any treatment for it … other than dealing with the stress that caused it,” said Dr. Rowe.
In fact, doing too much might be a bigger worry. Dr. Rowe cautioned against using too many hair products, which can clog pores in the scalp.
According to Dr. Rowe, such hair loss is more common in women. In stress alopecia, “… it is usually a little more common in women, but it can also affect men.”
The influence of stress on hormones can be particularly noticeable in women and can also cause changes in the menstrual cycle. Changing stress levels, weight changes, and even changes in daylight hours can affect the menstrual cycle.
Some changes to a menstrual cycle are fine, even normal. “Everyone is unique and special in their own way,” said Dr. Gil Weiss. “Bodies work in a slightly different way.” Dr. Weiss is a gynecologist who works at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. DR. Weiss said the average period comes every 28 days, but anything from 21 to 35 days can be normal. The active bleeding portion of a period typically lasts four to seven days.
And for people who are menstruating, the use of hormonal birth control can play a big role. People using hormonal birth control are likely to have more regular periods.
Of course, not all changes are normal, and so keeping track of big changes can help women notice them – and then see a doctor.
With hormonal birth control and more regular cycles, the occasional skipped cycle is probably fine. “It’s not that unusual,” said Dr. Weiss and emphasized that it is only okay for people who have taken their birth control pills regularly. Taking the pill incorrectly can lead to pregnancy. If you’ve skipped a period, it is probably a good idea to contact your doctor, but this is not necessarily a cause for concern.
For women not using hormonal birth control, Dr. Weiss makes sense to wait up to a week after a skipped time. All of this, of course, changes depending on the symptoms. “There is somehow two Main symptoms that are very common in pregnancy and are a bit unusual as a cycle related thing, ”said Dr. White. Spotting is more common in early pregnancy, as is nausea and vomiting.
To know when something is wrong, you have to know when something is right. “I think it’s very important to take care of our bodies in general,” said Dr. Weiss, who recommended an app or even a diary for recording information. A better conclusion with more information, ”he said.
Even in times without a pandemic, lifestyle factors and stress can lead to disruptions in the menstrual cycle or hair growth. However, other factors also play a role during Covid-19. Covid-19 as a disease can cause temporary hair loss and the stress many people have felt could do the same even if they get sick. This, combined with the many lifestyle changes people were exposed to during Covid-19, from spending less time outdoors to changes in diet and exercise, can affect processes like menstruation and hair growth.
Although there are reasonable explanations for physiological changes during Covid-19, Dr. Knows that people should turn to their doctors with concerns. Because small changes can be just that or a sign of something bigger.
Sabrina Emms is a science journalist. She began as an intern on a health and science podcast on Philadelphia public radio. Before that, she worked as a researcher studying the way bones are formed.
Medically reviewed by Yvonne Stolworthy, MSN, RN.