Teen Girl With ‘Rapunzel Syndrome’ Dies From Eating Her Own Hair

September 15, 2017
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A 16-year-old girl in the U.K. died suddenly while away at college due to an infection caused by a hairball in her stomach.

Jasmine Beever, of Skegness, was rushed to the hospital via ambulance on September 7, where staff attempted life-saving resuscitation, LicolnshireLive.com reported.

An autopsy later exposed that Beever had been suffering from peritonitis, which occurs when the thin membrane that covers the abdominal wall is inflamed, which is typically due to a fungal or bacterial infection.

Beever’s case was reportedly caused by the infected hairball in her stomach, and eventually led to a burst ulcer that caused her organs to shut down. Patients who swallow their own hair are often diagnosed with Rapunzel syndrome, which is actually caused by a psychiatric disorder called trichophagia, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

“Jasmine was amazing,” Donna Marshall, a friend’s mother, told LicolnshireLive.com. “She was one of those kids where she would make a sad face in the room smile. She was so bubbly.”

Marshall noted the teen’s death as a shock. Marshall’s daughter, a longtime friend of the teen, set up a Just Giving page for donations to help the family cover medical expenses.

 “We are extremely upset but we want to thank everybody for all they have done for the family,” Beever’s parents said.

Rapunzel syndrome is an extremely rare intestinal condition in humans resulting from ingesting hair. The syndrome is named after the long-haired girl Rapunzel in the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Trichophagia is sometimes associated with the hair-pulling disorder trichotillomania.

Characteristics of the syndrome include:

  • The body of a trichobezoar (hairball) located in the stomach, and its tail (hence the reference to Rapunzel in the syndrome’s name) in the small bowel and/or in the right colon
  • Small or large bowel obstruction
  • Occurring in psychiatric patients
  • Trichotillomania

Because the human gastrointestinal tract is unable to digest human hair, the trichobezoar may have to be treated surgically. Patients usually also require psychiatric evaluation and treatment due to the association with impulse control disorders, especially trichotillomania.

How To Tell The Difference Between Misbehavior And A Psychological Disorder

How do you know if a child is playing up or actually has a psychological issue? The signs to diagnose can be quite difficult but in the video below, Psychologist Audrey Tang runs through the signs to look out for.

Tang starts off by saying that there’s a very thin line when distinguishing between the two. Something that may seem small may actually be something that’s masking something bigger and vise versa.

She urges parents to get an official diagnosis whereby the ICD-10 or DSM-5 classification is used by your child’s GP or specialist. These classifications are basically a list and frequency of symptoms of mental disorders which will enable Doctors to make a proper diagnosis.

Only once a diagnosis is made, proper treatment can begin.

In terms of the warning signs of psychological disorder, Tang says that it is difficult to say as only patterns of behavior can be taken into account when a diagnosis is made. She suggests that parents speak to teachers, friends or family members and see if they have observed similar behaviors in your child as you have, just to clarify your concerns.

Do children’s psychological issues affect their parents mentally?

Being a parent is hard enough without having to deal with a child with a psychological disorder. A diagnosis can certainly affect parents mentally as parents do not expect to have children with mental issues. Parent of children with ADHD and Autism disorders often don’t cope as they continue to compare their kids to other children.

Tang advises parents of children with psychological disorders to make time for themselves and to look after their own mental health and to not be afraid to talk about how they are feeling.

They should also look out for their own patterns of behavior which may signal that they are struggling, like sleep problems or irritability.

Her advice to these parents is to build up a support network, perhaps even consisting of other parents going through similar issues, to help get them through their struggles.

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