Hair balls - not just for cats anymore

Krista - posted on 12/21/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )




Doctors untangle the strange case of the giant hairball

Share this on:Mixx Facebook Twitter Digg delicious reddit MySpace StumbleUpon LinkedIn November 21, 2007
It may not be the most appetizing reading before a hearty holiday meal, but the New England Journal of Medicine is devoting part of its Thanksgiving issue to a giant hairball -- and not the feline kind.

The prestigious journal details the case of a previously healthy 18-year-old woman who consulted a team of gastrointestinal specialists.

She complained of a five-month history of pain and swelling in her abdomen, vomiting after eating and a 40-pound weight loss.

After a scan of the woman's abdomen showed a large mass, doctors lowered a scope through her esophagus.

It revealed "a large bezoar occluding nearly the entire stomach," wrote Drs. Ronald M. Levy and Srinadh Komanduri, gastroenterologists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

For the uninitiated, a bezoar is a ball of swallowed foreign material.

"On questioning, the patient stated that she had had a habit of eating her hair for many years -- a condition called trichophagia," they wrote.

"It seemed like she'd been doing this for several years," Levy told CNN.

The woman underwent surgery to remove the mass of black, curly hair, which weighed 10 pounds and measured 15 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches, the doctors said.

Five days later, she was eating normally and was sent home.

A year later, the pain and vomiting were gone, the patient had regained 20 pounds "and reports that she has stopped eating her hair."

Reached at his home in Chicago, Levy said he had no idea whether the journal's timing of the publication on Thanksgiving was intentional.

Either way, he said, it would not affect the gastroenterologists' holiday dinner plans -- "We don't get fazed by much."

Do you think she'll be cured of her disease or do you think we'll see this woman again?


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[deleted account]

And Krista, I was wondering the same thing about the stomach acid. I mean, if stomach acid breaks down food, you would think it would break down hair too. Or that she would have pooped it out a little at a time over the years. It must have gotten caught on something and formed a "hair net". Insert corney drum "bah dum dum" here lol

[deleted account]

Ugh, that is disgusting! I've always had long hair and nothing makes me gag more than getting a hair in my mouth. You know what I'm talking about. When you get one in your mouth and feel it and spend a minute digging around on your tongue to get it OUT. I can't imagine doing it on purpose. I hope that having such a huge surgery will cure it for this woman. Just the thought...../shiver /gag

Krista - posted on 12/21/2010




Is stomach acid not strong enough to break down hair? I mean, how did it get so bad?

Mary - posted on 12/21/2010




Actually, it isn't all that uncommon, especially in children. Many of them do it without even realizing it, even in their sleep. It's kind of like a nervous habit, and is more prevalent in times of stress.

My niece had a similar issue between the ages of 3 and 6. She would would twist her hair into knots, and then pull it out. Luckily, she didn't eat it, but she did it to the points of developing bald patches. When strangers saw her out, they assumed she was a cancer patient. My sister said that under and around her bed was handfulls of knotted hair.

They tried EVERYthing to stop this - problem was, she didn't even realize she was doing it. They eventually took her to a child psychologist. It had started about 6 months after the arrival of her baby brother combined with a change in her daycare. It would then flare up seasonally with her allergies, and be particularly bad in the spring and fall.

I don't know that the therapist was particularly helpful, other than diagnosing it. She just eventually seemed to out grow it.

Funny thing is, my sister has always been a hair twirler as well, she just never yanked it out.

Rosie - posted on 12/21/2010




i've heard of weird disorders like this, it seems like they need some major counseling before they stop. did she get counseling or just surgery. if she just got the surgery i think she'll be snarfing down hair for breakfast again soon.

[deleted account]

I don't know that this is too uncommon. You just don't always hear about it on the news. I was watching a show called "My Strange Addiction" and one of the women they were following ate chalk. Four sticks a day. Just popped pieces of them like you would a tic-tac. Another woman eats toilet paper. Some guy eats glass. Hell, some famous dude whose name escapes me use to eat whole bicycles!

You don't hear about these things much because the people don't usually go public. The girl who ate the chalk had been eating since fourth grade and was in her mid-twenties. Yet her family didn't know about it until she came out and told them five months before they started filming the show, and her best friend still didn't know until she told him while they were filming. He just thought she was eating candy, because she hid the chalk in her purse and broke it off before eating it.

It's an addiction, whether the people who do it admit it or not, and they don't want their friends and family to worry so they don't say anything until it becomes a medical concern.

Sharon - posted on 12/21/2010




lmfao. oh man. poor bitch.

Makes me feel guilty for nipping off my split ends. Granted I don't eat them, but i still bite them off with my teeth.

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