CHENNAI: Doctors in the city removed a clump of hair from a 13-year-old mentally challenged girl’s stomach on Wednesday. The girl was diagnosed with trichophagia, a hair eating disorder, together with trichotillomania, where a person pulls out own hair to eat it.
Dr Prakash Agarwal, head of the department of paediatrics at Ramachandra Hospital, said, “She had cerebral palsy and from the amount of hair that we removed, it was obvious that she had been eating her own hair for years, but the parents had no idea at all.”
The girl had been losing weight for years, but the parents did not fathom the seriousness, and they only decided to take her to the hospital 10 days ago after she began to vomit and lost her appetite.
The doctors found through an endoscopy that the hair mass occupied almost her entire stomach. “The tuft of hair took up 250 ml of the 300 ml space in the stomach, leaving only 50 ml for food and water, which was why the child had lost her appetite and had also been vomiting so much,” Agarwal, who operated on the girl, said.
The doctor added that such cases were extremely rare. “Maybe such cases occur once in 10-12 years,” he said.
The teenager has been directed by the doctors to take counselling and undergo psychological treatment to stop the habit. “It’s also better to keep their hair short to prevent it from happening again,” Agarwal explained.