A 7-year-old girl recently had a 4-inch hairball removed from her stomach at a hospital in Shenzhen, China.
The hairball, referred to medically as a gastrolith, developed in the unidentified girl’s stomach because she ate her hair and fingernails over a period of two years, Daily Mail reported.
She was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 31 after complaining of stomach pains for two days. Following an examination, doctors were able to determine that a hard growth was lodged in her stomach.
An x-ray revealed the grapefruit-sized hairball, which had to be broken up before it could be removed from her body via surgery.
Doctors diagnosed the girl with pica, a condition characterized by eating non-food items regularly for at least a month.
Pica is most frequently seen in people with learning disabilities and pregnant women, according to Daily Mail. It can result in several complications, including malnutrition, toxic poisoning and parasitic infection.
Another Chinese girl diagnosed with pica had a 4.4-pound hairball removed from her stomach in April.
An 18-year-old from Kyrgyzstan almost died in 2014 because a 9-pound hairball in her stomach prevented her from keeping any food or liquid down, The Telegraph reported.
“By the time we got her, she could not even drink water,” said Bahadir Bebezov, senior professor of surgery at Bishkek Hospital. "We realized we needed to operate immediately."
The operation was successful.
The young woman was diagnosed with Trichophagia, the compulsive eating of hair. In extreme cases, it can lead to Rapunzel Syndrome, when a hairball grows a tail that extends into a person’s intestines.
Doctors say that parents who notice their children eating non-food items should stop them from doing so, Daily Mail reports. If they have concerns, they should seek medical advice.