US/World

Teenage Girl With 'Rapunzel Syndrome' Has Massive 9-Pound Hairball Removed From Stomach

9-Pound hairball removed from girl's stomach
An 18-year-old girl had a 9-pound hairball removed from her stomach after eating hair from the carpet and chewing on her own. @MetroUK/Twitter

A teenage girl from Kyrgyzstan found it hard to stomach the truth when X-rays revealed the cause of her severe stomach pains, after months of not being able to eat or even drink a glass of water without getting sick. Eighteen-year-old Aypero Alekseeva discovered her inability to properly eat or drink was due to a massive 9-pound hairball blocking her digestive system after years of eating hair from the carpet and chewing the tips of her own hair. After an emergency surgery, surgeons at Bishkek Hospital in the country’s capital for surgery successfully removed the hairball that otherwise would’ve led to her death.

“We realized we needed to operate immediately. It was actually the only alternative. Nothing else would solve the problem. In fact, her stomach was so badly swollen from hair and bits of wool from the carpet that it literally just oozed out soon as the wall of the stomach was cut,” said Bahadir Bebezov, the hospital’s senior professor of surgery, Metro reported.

Bebezov and his colleagues found apart from picking up her hair from the carpet and eating it, the young girl was perfectly normal and healthy. But Alekseeva does appear to suffer from trichophagia, also referred to as “Rapunzel syndrome,” characterized by compulsive eating of one’s hair. The condition occurs when hair is chewed and then swallowed, according to trichstop.com. The hair ingested will eventually collect in the patient’s stomach and will cause stomach problems such as indigestion and pain, as seen in Alekseeva’s case. Patients will be given medication to induce vomiting, or undergo surgery to remove the massive amounts of accumulated hair over the years.

Alekseeva’ s hairball, which scientists call a “trichobezoar” — a bezoar formed from hair — is neither the first nor the largest ever removed from a human body. In 2007, an 18-year-old woman from Chicago had a mass of black, curly hair, which weighed 10 pounds and measured 15 inches by 7 by 7, removed from her stomach. CNN reported the woman had a five-month history of pain and swelling in her abdomen, vomiting after eating, a 40-pound weight loss, and a habit of eating her hair for many years. After surgery, the woman was found eating normally, regained 20 pounds, and stopped eating her hair.

Alekseeva, like the Chicago woman, is expected to make a full recovery from surgery and will return home shortly. The teen promises to never chew her hair again in the future. 

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