An otherwise healthy 34-year-old man developed a blood-flow disorder in his brain and suffered several debilitating "thunderclap" headaches after entering a hot pepper eating contest, USA doctors reported.
Doctors warned that taking part in hot chilli contests could have unexpected consequences, as they published details of the incident in journal BMJ Case Reports.
Suffering multiple bouts of skull-crushing headaches, the man had to go through neck pain and dry heaving for days. Doctors performed several tests for neurological conditions, which came back negative.
The patient's symptoms cleared up on their own and a follow-up scan five weeks later showed the affected arteries had returned to their normal width.
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RCVS should be considered as a potential cause of thunderclap headache after most common causes are ruled out including subarachnoid haemorrhage, cerebral vein thrombosis, and cervical artery dissection.
But a CT scan showed that several brain arteries had constricted.
"Given the development of symptoms immediately after exposure to a known vasoactive substance [substances that cause constriction of blood vessels], it is plausible that our patient had RCVS secondary to the Carolina Reaper", the authors wrote. In 2017, the Carolina Reaper took the title again, with a pepper grown in SC that measured 1,641,183 SHUs.
Usually RCVS is caused by reactions to medications or illicit drugs.
That's never been diagnosed after eating hot peppers before, but Turkish doctors have reported a heart attack in a young man who took cayenne pepper pills. The Carolina Reaper, on the other hand, is more than 2 million units and tastes "like molten lava", according to its creator Ed Currie.
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The searing pepper didn't sit well in the chili-eating contestant.
While there is no single cause, RCVS occurs when arteries in the brain constrict or narrow restricting bloodflow and increasing pressure.
Dr. Kulothungan Gunasekaran, one of the reports authors, now at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said that for some reason the man must have been particularly sensitive to capsaicin, the heat-producing ingredient in peppers.
World's hottest chili pepper can give one such a nasty headache that it could potentially warrant a trip to the hospital.
Three competitors, who are not involved in this story or case report, are seen participating in a chili pepper eating competition in Ningxiang, China.
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