What is pica?

Pica

Pica is a condition in which a person craves substances that are not food, such as clay, dirt, ice, or flecks of old paint. Pica can have a physical cause, such as iron deficiency anemia or pregnancy, or it may be due to a mental health condition.

Treatment depends on the cause and may include psychological counseling or medications to reduce the craving.

What are the symptoms of pica?

People with pica eat things that aren't food. This can result in stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea. If the person eats sharp or hard things, there may be tooth pain, mouth pain, or other mouth problems. In some cases, there are no symptoms.

How is pica treated?

In some cases, pica stops on its own. Children may outgrow it. If there's an illness or health problem caused by eating things that aren't food, such as an infection, ulcer, lead poisoning, or mouth injury, that will be treated. The doctor may refer the person to a behavioral or mental health professional.

How is pica diagnosed?

Your doctor will do an exam and ask about eating behaviors. You may be asked about mental illness, developmental disability, or intellectual disability. Your doctor also may want to do blood tests. These tests can look for a lack of some nutrients, such as iron, zinc, or calcium.

What causes pica?

Often the cause of pica isn't known. But it may be a sign of a lack of certain nutrients or of poor nutrition.

What is pica?

Pica is an eating disorder. People with pica eat things that aren't food, such as chalk, dirt, hair, paint, or paper. It can happen in children older than 2 years and in teens and adults. It happens more in children than in teens or adults. Pica is more common in people with autism spectrum disorder and developmental or intellectual disabilities. It also can happen when a person is pregnant.

Depending on what things the person eats, the health risk may be small. But eating certain things can be dangerous or even deadly.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.