Rapunzel syndrome: the lowdownIt is named after the fairytale, but Rapunzel syndrome has anything but a happy ending.

Rapunzel syndrome is a rare medical condition where hair that a person has eaten becomes tangled into a hair ball called a trichobezoarin in their stomach and can pass to the intestines.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, bloating and digestive complaints. It can even cause an infection of the blood (sepsis) and in a very small percentage of cases (4%) it can lead to death.

How does Rapunzel syndrome happen?

Eating or sucking on hair can become habitual and can take many months or even years before symptoms start showing. Most people do not realise they are doing it.

The syndrome is classed as a psychiatric disorder and there are usually two types that Rapunzel Syndrome is associated with – trichotillomania and pica.

Trichotillomania awareness has grown in recent times as celebrities have come out and admitted to it. High profile names who struggle with it include actress Megan Fox who has been admitted for treatment three times and also suffers with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Other stars who suffer

Other high profile celebs include Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, Justin Timberlake, Katie Perry and Victoria Beckham. Many have spoken out about how difficult the disorder is. Model Naomi Campbell and actress Kate Beckinsale have both been spotted out with bald spots, although neither have been open about why this might be.

Trichotillomania is essentially feeling the need to pull out your own hair from the scalp (or even eyelashes or eye brows), with your fingers/hands or mouth. Many people suck on the hair and some eat the hair. It is said to be soothing and is usually something that is started to relieve stress and can quickly become a habit.

Psychological treatment is usually recommended to put a stop to recurring compulsive hair eating that can cause Rapunzel syndrome. With more celebrities speaking out, the awareness has been raised and there seems to be less stigma attached to the condition.