A book about a 15-year-old American girl with Alopecia has been sold in 5 different countries around the world. ‘Maddie: Teaching Tolerance with a Smile’ was written by Sean O’Brien, a former high school classmate of its subject (Madison Woytovich)’s father. Unlike most books about hair loss conditions, it is aimed specifically at children, to help them understand more about Alopecia.
At the age of 5, Madison known as Maddie to her friends and family was diagnosed with Alopecia, and since then she and her family have been actively raising awareness of the condition.
Maddie’s parents, Betsy and Jeff, started a charity in 2004 called the Children's Alopecia Project (CAP) to help and support other children suffering from hair loss and to offer support to the families of those affected. "We never hid from it," said Jeff. "Maddie didn't hide, so we went out and hit everybody over the head with Alopecia."
Betsy added: "It helps people to understand, and that's what it's all about. We hope the book can raise awareness in schools and maybe help reduce the incidence of bullying. Kids can see that kids who have Alopecia look different, but really they're just normal kids."
Alopecia Areata is the sudden loss of hair, usually in patches. This happens because lots of hair follicles suddenly and prematurely enter the telogen (resting) phase, causing the hair to shed. The condition affects approximately one in a thousand people, and can occur during childhood or adulthood.
The cause of Alopecia Areata is unknown, but it is categorised as an autoimmune disorder. There are numerous potential triggers under investigation by researchers, including psychological or physical trauma, genetics, allergies, chemicals and infections.
The condition experienced by Maddie is known as Alopecia Universalis: this is the most severe form of Alopecia, because it results in the loss of all bodily hair. Extreme cases like Maddie’s usually cannot be treated, but less advanced cases can sometimes be halted in their progression. Anyone under the age of 16 who has noticed hair loss should consult their GP in the first instance.
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