If you thought hairballs are a problem unique to cats, you have another thing coming to you.
It turns out a 16-year-old Russian girl had been ingesting morsels of her own her for more than 10 years that it reached the point doctors had to perform urgent surgery on her for her own good.
In the end, a giant hairball that weighed over half a kilo (1lb 2oz) was taken from her stomach. The act of chewing one’s own hair is actually a medical condition called Rapunzel syndrome.
The emergency surgery was performed in Tomsk, Siberia, and a photo showing the shockingly huge hairball was shared online.
According to the doctors who operated on her, roughly 80 percent of the teen’s stomach was taken up by her hair and that posed a major health risk.
Since the human stomach can’t digest hair, any hair that is ingested will just accumulate in the stomach and keep accumulating into a giant clump, just like what happened to the girl.
According to the chief doctor, Andrey Karavaev, the girl’s gastrointestinal tract was at risk of being completely blocked. This is why the doctors decided to immediately operate on her at the Emergency Medicine Clinic Number Two, in Tomsk.
The girl, who remains unnamed, is recovering nicely and said she “feels much better” after having the giant clump of hair removed. One can only imagine what it must have been like to have been carrying around half a kilo worth of indigestible stuff inside one’s stomach for a decade.
Per local media reports, the girl’s case is only the second known instance of Rapunzel syndrome that has occurred in the region over the past 25 years.
The medical term for Rapunzel syndrome is trichophagia which is related to trichotillomania, a hair-pulling ailment. Doctors say that the girl most likely needs psychiatric help to overcome her condition.
Before she was taken to the hospital, the girl had complained that she was losing her hair.
The syndrome takes its name from one of the characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
The British Medical Journal has cataloged only 90 cases of Rapunzel syndrome. The presence of a huge clump of hair can cause problems such as dehydration, vomiting, malnutrition, bowel obstruction, and abdominal pain.
One such case reported by the BMJ involves a six-year-old girl who had a 2,100-gram hairball that measured about 11 cm by 16 cm and sported a 110 cm “tail.” Apparently, the girl had a habit of putting her hair into her mouth, with any loose hair consequently swallowed, said the girl’s parents.
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