In case you’re wondering what the Rapunzel Syndrome is, it is not like the story we heard and read from the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It is actually a rare condition, common among women, where the afflicted ingests strands of hair, causing serious stomach pains. The ingested hairs get tangled and trapped inside the stomach. This would eventually form a hair ball with a long tail extending into the small intestine.
In 2015, a young woman has undergone a surgery after complaining of stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting. Her doctors were baffled after removing a 5-feet hair ball from her abdomen.
Kavita Kumari, 15 years old, was noted to have become addicted to swallowing hair. She even plucks other people’s hair she finds lying on the ground, as well as her classmates’. This addiction of hers led to her appetite loss and vomiting when forced to eat. Prior to the operation, she has been sent to many doctors but they only gave her pain relievers.
Kavita’s health deteriorated throughout seeking for the right physician, until her father finally brought her to Siddharth Multi Speciality Hospital and research Centre in Uttar Pradesh. Doctors then examined her condition through CT scan and discovered the big ball of hair insider her.
This is where doctors declared she acquired the rare Rapunzel Syndrome.
Dr. Lal Bahadur Sidharth, Gastro and Laproscopic surgeon, said: “Kavita had come to us with complaints of extreme pain in the stomach. She was in a very serious condition. She was malnourished and very weak. She was barely able to stand on her own. Her parents told us about her habit of eating hair. We did endoscopy on her that revealed she had hairball inside her stomach.”
"Her condition was so bad that I had told her parents she might not make it through the surgery. But after her parents consent, we took her for operation that lasted more than two hours. I didn’t expect the hairball to be this big. After I removed it from her stomach we were shocked. I measured it and it turned out to be five feet long. I had never seen such a case before,” he added.
Rapunzel syndrome is a psychiatric disorder called trichophagia. Studies found that this illness occurs in people with iron deficiency. Kavita will then undergo counseling.
“We did not know she was in the habit of eating hair. Though I noticed many times that she plucked couple of strands from my hair and even her classmates told me she did the same with them.
“But I never took it seriously as I thought she was plucking their hair to tease them. I had no idea she was apparently eating hair,” Kavita’s mother, Phool Devi, said.
“She was getting weaker with each passing day. We had taken her to several local doctors but none could find out the real problem. I am so thankful to the doctors for saving her life,” she added.
Were you shocked by Kavita’s condition? What are other rare disorders have you heard of? Share the stories with us in the comments section below.