A furball appearing on the floor of the house is part and parcel of cats being cats. One cleans it up and carries on.
But things are different with people who eat their hair, as one British family can attest.
Melissa Williams, 13, of Liverpool, required surgery to remove a massive knot of hair from her stomach, according to The Mirror, leading her parents to alert others about a condition known as Rapunzel syndrome.
The girl had been having a tough time at school, and when she was anxious over being bullied, she would pull out her hair and eat it, the report said.
Jackie Williams, Melissa’s mother, said it took some time before anyone understood what was going on.
“The first things we noticed were that she was feeling and being sick, had poor appetite and lost about one stone [14 pounds] in weight. I thought she had an eating disorder because she wasn’t eating,” Williams said.
“She started getting sent home from school a lot and asking not to go in because she felt sick, but because it was on the same day every week I thought it was a lesson she didn’t like,” she said.
Melissa’s mum thought she was just trying to get out of lessons when she complained of feeling sick, but it turned out she had Rapunzel Syndrome https://t.co/jVps8B4jPF
— Abigail Nicholson (@AbigailJourno) January 23, 2022
After multiple doctor visits that resolved nothing, Melissa underwent emergency surgery at a local hospital on Oct. 1.
X-rays found what Williams called “a big mass” in her daughter’s stomach but had no idea what it was.
During surgery, the mass of hair had to be cut into four pieces to be removed. The mass was the size of a rugby ball, Williams said.
“The doctors said if we didn’t take Mel in when we did she might not have pulled through the surgery. She was relieved once the pain was gone, and she was so brave,” she said.
After the surgery, Melissa ended up making a return trip to deal with multiple infections.
Now, although she still pulls out her hair under stress, she does not eat it.
Fun fact: there is a medical condition delightfully called Rapunzel Syndrome.
It’s when a person eats so much hair it forms an enormous hairball that can block their intestines.https://t.co/5jldIgi54e
— Anosognosiogenesis (@pookleblinky) December 5, 2021
“Parents should look out for any changes in their kids’ hair, and it’s not just the hair on their head. It can be eyelashes and eyebrows. Also any changes to eating, sickness, and stomach pains are all symptoms,” Williams said in a warning about the rare syndrome.