A teenage girl's parents were worried sick when she became unable to put down food, and her weight dropped below 42 pounds. When they took her to the doctor and found out what was lodged in her stomach, they were completely dumbfounded. (Warning: graphic photos below.)
When doctors performed an X-ray on 16-year-old Aakansha Kumari, they discovered a huge ball of tangled hair with a tail in her stomach working its way down through her colon, reports the Daily Mail.
The hairball, called a trichobezoar, was the size of a melon and occupied roughly 80 percent of her stomach.
It turns out that she had been eating her own hair in secret for years. She was diagnosed with trichotillomania, a disorder in which sufferers compulsively pull out their own head, facial or body hair, and trichophagia, a related condition in which people can't keep from eating their hair. Trichotillomania is often associated with other mental health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders and mood disorders like depression.
According to the National Institutes of Health, trichotillomania affects an estimated 4 percent of the population, usually begins before the age of 17, and is often brought on by stress. When hairballs form in the stomach or bowels, it can lead to vomiting, stomach pain, stomach bleeding and general feelings of sickness.
Kumari got to the point where she would throw up every time she ate something, and according to her father, Satish Chandra, a lump in her belly was visible to the naked eye, notes The New York Post.
"The hairball occupied 250 ml to 300 ml of space in the stomach," said gastro surgeon Dr. Abhay Kumar, who led Kumari's medical team, according to The Daily Mail. "And this was causing her to lose interest in eating."
Fortunately, doctors at Doon Medical College and Hospital in India were able to open her up and successfully remove the giant lump during a single operation.
"The surgery was challenging because we had to extract the hairball in one go," Kumar explained. "We couldn't do it piece by piece and risk dropping strands of hair in the body cavity as it would lead to further complications."
Kumar said that the girl is "doing much better after surgery."
"My daughter is looking much healthier and happier now," said Chandra.