India: Surgeons have removed a gigantic hairball from the stomach of a four-year-old boy after he began eating his own locks.
Little Sivam Kumar has had his head completely shaved by his parents after he was diagnosed with rare 'Rapunzel Syndrome.'
Sufferers, normally girls, compulsively eat their own hair.
Sivam had been eating his own hair for nine months and he would often vomit, unable to eat normally which eventually led to malnutrition and dehydration.
In the end the youngster was able to only digest water.
His father, Sunil Kumar, 36, said: ‘He used to cry all the time but he couldn’t explain to us what was wrong. We took him to many doctors but they found nothing.
‘When a CT scan eventually revealed a big hairball I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it.”
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When Sivan began complaining of pains a few months ago Sunil and his wife Munni Devi, 28, took their son to doctors near their home in Delhi, India, but they were told it was a stomach infection and were sent away with medicines.
But eventually the toddler’s stomach was so bloated it was protruding abnormally.
Eventually Dr Shilpa Sharma, an assistant professor of the pediatric department, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital, in New Delhi, found his stomach was clogged with hair.
After an hour-long surgery on February 4th, doctors retrieved a gigantic hairball that filled his stomach as well as his small and large intestines.
When measured the hairball was 4ft long.
Dr Shilpa Sharma said: ‘He was very weak and malnourished and his stomach was severely bloated when we first saw him. We immediately took a CT scan and that’s when we found a big entangled mass in his abdomen.
“There was very little gas in the abdomen area. The hair had spread in the stomach and travelled into his intestines. When we opened his stomach a 4 ft hairball came out in the exact shape of the stomach.”
Mother Munni, who has two other boys, aged six and eight, said: ‘I’d seen him plucking his hair and eating it but I just assumed it would come out in his stool. I didn’t know he was eating it so regularly and over a nine-month period.
‘When I saw the CT scan reports I was devastated. I was sure he wouldn’t survive. I am thankful to God that my son has survived this and is now absolutely fine.”
The parents are now keeping an eye on the toddler’s every movement.
‘I am not leaving Sivam alone for even one minute now,’ Munni added. ‘We have to make sure he doesn’t do this again.’
But Sunil, who works as a carpenter earning 7,000Rupees a month, and Munni have decided that shaving Sivam’s hair will cure his condition.
‘We’ve shaved off his hair now so that he’s not tempted to eat it. And doctors have also told us to keep him bald until he’s at least ten years old so there’ll be no risk of this happening again.’
Dr Shilpa said: ‘The boy is the fourth case in the world where a child so young has been affected with the syndrome. It is a psychological disorder and we are now trying to look at the causes and preventions so he doesn’t start eating hair again. We have advised the parents to shave off his head for now.’
Sivam suffered from Rapunzel Syndrome, and the hairball, Trichobezoar, is usually only found in teenage girls.
Trichotillomania is term used for the psychological condition in which a person has an urge to pull hair.
One percent of the world’s population is affected by this condition and out of that one percent the Rapunzel syndrome is developed, more so in teenage girls.
Trichobezoar is the extreme collection of hair – a hairball - found in the stomach of humans and animals.