Eating world's hottest pepper sparks brain disorder, thunderclap headaches

The Carolina Reaper the world's hottest chili pepper

One chilli lover in the USA got more than he bargained for when he developed excruciating "thunderclap headaches" after eating the world's hottest chilli pepper.

The 34-year-old man told doctors he'd eaten a Carolina Reaper chilli after he presented to the Bassett Medical Center's emergency room, in the USA state of NY, with excruciating pain.

Instead, the man was diagnosed with the thunderclap headaches linked to a temporary brain condition known as Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS).

The doctor who reviewed his case has warned anyone eating hot chilli peppers to seek medical attention immediately if they experience sudden onset headaches. Immediately after slaying a Reaper, the man began dry heaving and developed pain in his neck and the back of his skull.

In the following days, he developed "intense" neck pain and headaches and was tested for neurological conditions.

A brain scan five weeks later showed his arteries had returned to normal.

CT and MRI scans of the man's brain were taken but showed nothing out of the ordinary.

The patient had ingested the Carolina Reaper - bred first in 2013 by Ed Currie of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company.

Usually RCVS is caused by reactions to medications or illicit drugs. The first symptoms started right after he ate the pepper, but intensified as he experienced flashes of excruciating headaches, each lasting for a few seconds.

The Carolina Reaper the world's hottest chili pepper
The Carolina Reaper the world's hottest chili pepper

In 2017, the Carolina Reaper took the title again, with a pepper grown in SC that measured 1,641,183 SHUs.

These types of headaches are not common, and they can also be a sign of a serious condition, such as a blood clot or bleeding in the brain.

"Most people would explain this as the worst headache they've had in their life", he said.

The Scoville scale is a measure of spiciness, which is based on the concentration of capsaicin in a substance - the compound that makes peppers hot.

So if you happen to go beyond your limits — having, say, entered a hot-pepper-eating competition?

While most RCVS patients do well, she added, a minority can have such severe blood vessel spasms that they die. He achieved this accomplishment by consuming 120 grams of the pepper in 60 seconds at the Arizona Hot Sauce Expo in November 2016. A capsicum, the baseline pepper, has one SHU.

The Carolina Reaper contains 1,569,300.

The man's symptoms improved within days.

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.

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