Miss Delaware, Others With Alopecia Overcome Hair Loss

Fourteen-year-old Makenzee Meaux began losing her hair five years ago after being diagnosed with alopecia areata, a baffling autoimmune disease that manifests itself by attacking hair follicles.

It started slowly, with small, patchy bald spots on her scalp. But the hair loss accelerated quickly and within a year Makenzee, who was set to begin fourth grade, lost nearly all the hair on her scalp.

"We were both so devastated," says Jennifer Meaux, Makenzee's mother, who says none of the many doctors they visited could help. "We just prayed it would grow back but it never really did."

Today Makenzee has long, flowing blonde hair and spends her days concentrating on homework, sports and playing with her friends in Crosby, Texas.

But her beautiful locks aren't the result of medical treatments – there is no reliable cure for alopecia. It's courtesy instead of an elaborate reproduction developed by Hair Club for Kids, the charitable wing of a company best-known for providing high-tech hair restoration services for adults.

"It has made a tremendous difference in Makenzee's life," says her mother, Jennifer. "She went from being afraid to leave the house to a normal teen who just loves life."

Alopecia areata sufferers have long struggled to cope with sudden and dramatic hair loss brought on by the disease. The condition affects men and women and may ultimately lead to complete scalp hair loss or even total body hair loss.

More than five million Americans - a surprising 2 percent of the population - have the disease that often forces the afflicted to hide behind ill-fitting, uncomfortable wigs, scarves or hats to disguise their hair loss.

The emotional trauma is even more acute for women and children, who are immediately confronted with a drastic change in their appearance.

Yet as alopecia gains more attention in social and medical circles, and researchers make strides in uncovering the cause, a growing number of non-surgical hair replacement options have surfaced to help sufferers combat the condition cosmetically.

Click Here to Read More on New Genetic Research that Uncovers the Cause of Alopecia Areata

Some companies are offering sophisticated hair reproductions without surgery that are nearly undetectable to the eye. Other firms have hit the market recently offering a range of custom-made hair systems designed specifically for women and children who suffer from alopecia.

Bringing Attention to Alopecia

"All young girls who have this disease should still feel like they can be a princess," says Kayla Martell, who was diagnosed with alopecia areata 10 years ago and has been nearly bald ever since.

Last month, the graceful 21-year old became an instant champion for young women stricken with the disease when she donned a blonde, shoulder-length wig and beat out 15 other contestants to be crowned Miss Delaware 2010.

Now the illness is her platform for the Miss America competition in January. She says wearing a wig presented her with a surprising opportunity to bring attention to alopecia and those diagnosed with it. Martell entered the Miss Delaware pageant four times - twice without a wig - before winning.

"I'm living proof that you can wear a beautiful wig and still be comfortable with who you are," says Martell, who volunteers at alopecia support groups and speaks at events sponsored by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, which supports research to find a cure or treatment.

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