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Hair Tourniquet Syndrome

Hair Tourniquet Syndrome is not an issue we hear too much about. But it is more common than most think. The syndrome occurs when one or more hairs become wrapped around a digit. This causes oedema, with the constriction sometimes leading to Ischaemia.


Ischaemia is the hardening and obstruction of the blood vessels, reducing the blood supply to the legs and feet. The feet are more vulnerable to damage due to poor circulation. A good blood supply is needed for healthy skin and wound healing.


Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs is often caused by a build-up of fluid in these areas, called oedema.

What causes Hair Tourniquet Syndrome?

In some cases when a hair gets wrapped around a baby's digit (eg. finger, or toe) it can become so tightly wrapped that it can result in pain, injury and sometimes loss of the finger or toe. This is more likely to occur to babies. Especially when during the postpartum period a mother is more likely to be losing more hair.

The hair being wrapped around the finger is most common in children from 4 days to 19 months. It can also occur around the penis (usually 4 months to 6 years). It can be hard to detect as human hair is extremely thin, and hence easily overlooked.


The area will need to be examined very closely to find the hair. This can be done using a magnifying glass and a bright light. The hair will need to be removed as soon as possible. In some cases where the oedema is too severe and the hair is not visible it may need to be removed under general anaesthetic.

In all cases please consult with your GP first.


Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust

Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust


Image Credit: Healthline


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