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Cats Can Get Hairballs...But so Can People!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair…

If you’ve ever had long hair you know how it can collect just about everywhere, so I can’t help but wonder how Rapunzel kept her locks from sticking to the shower wall and getting in her coffee. One thing’s for sure though, she didn’t eat it. If she did, she’d probably be pretty sick.

Rapunzel syndrome is the result of trichophagia (compulsive hair eating), and is essentially a human hairball. Trichotillomania is a psychiatric disease in which someone pulls out or cuts off their hair, and when it combines with trichophagia, Rapunzel syndrome is born. The danger lies in the human digestive system’s inability to digest hair, leaving to the formation of trichobezoars (yes bezoars like in Harry Potter), or hairballs. Generally the hairballs are not that dangerous, since humans (unlike rabbits who also get hairballs) can vomit them up, but if they grow too large they may need to be surgically removed. Much more worrying however is the psychiatric state of a patient experiencing this condition, as trichophagia and trichotillomania are commonly seen in conjunction with the difficult-to-treat obsessive compulsive disorder.


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