A man in the north-west Indian state of Rajasthan is lucky to be alive after eating 116 iron nails. Fortunately, none of the 6.5-centimeter-long (2.5-inch) items punctured his stomach lining, and have all been removed by doctors in the town of Bundi.
Bhola Shankar turned up at the local government hospital complaining of stomach pains on May 13. An initial X-ray revealed a mass of nails lodged in the 43-year-old’s stomach, which were then surgically extracted the following day.
Shankar, who works as a gardener, was unable to explain why he had eaten the sharp metal objects, and doctors say they have no idea how long they might have been in his stomach for.
Fortunately, no long-term damage appears to have been done and Shankar is now recovering well, although this incident does highlight the dangers of certain eating disorders and other mental health issues.
Pica is the name given to a wide variety of eating disorders that involve the ingestion of items with no nutritive value, such as soil, hair, wood, and metal. The umbrella term covers a range of conditions including acuphagia, which refers to the eating of sharp objects.
People who suffer from acuphagia obviously run the risk of destroying their intestines, which can be fatal, and treating the condition is extremely difficult. Usually, doctors first test for a deficiency in iron, which can lead to a compulsive drive to compensate for this by eating metal. However, in many cases, the condition is driven by psychological rather than nutritional causes, and a range of different therapies are needed to treat it.