Pica disorder is the persistent eating of substances such as paint or dirt or paint which have no nutritional value.
Pica disorder is a type of eating disorders which occurs most often in children and pregnant women, but it is often temporary.
Pica disorder also occurs in people who have intellectual disabilities. It’s often more harsh and long-lasting in people with harsh developmental disabilities.
Other types of eating disorder include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder.
Pica Disorder Causes
Pica disorder does not have just one cause. In some cases, deficiencies in iron, zinc, or other nutrients may also be associated with pica. For instance, anemia, or iron deficiency may be the underlying cause of pica in pregnant women. Any unusual cravings may have might be a sign that your body is trying to replace low nutrient levels.
People with some mental health problems such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder may also develop pica as a coping mechanism.
Malnourishment and dieting can also lead to pica. In these cases, eating food items without any nutritional value may help you feel full.
A person might eat relatively harmless items, such as ice, or they might eat potentially bad non-food items, such as flakes of dried paint or pieces of metal. Pica can also lead to serious problems, such as lead poisoning.
Some possible causes of pica disorder include:
- Iron Deficiency This is one of the most common types of anemia. It occurs when the body does not have lots of the mineral iron. The body needs iron to produce blood.
- Nutritional Deficiencies such as Malnutrition. This deficiency occurs when the body is unable to absorb the necessary amount of a nutrient needed. Nutritional deficiencies lead to a variety of health problems.
Symptoms of pica disorder
People who have pica often eat non-food items. This behavior must continue for at least one month to classify as pica.
If you are suffering from pica, you may often eat some non-food items such as:
- Cigarette ash
Complications of Pica Disorder
There are several serious problems of pica, such as:
- Lead poisoning
- Learning disabilities in children (Dyslexia)
- Brain damage
- Nutritional deficiencies as a result of not eating healthy foods
- This is as a result of eating objects that can’t be easily digested like stones. This goes to cause a barrier in the digestive tract.
- Also, some hard or sharp objects such as paperclips or metal scraps can tear the lining of the gut or intestines.
- Infections of the kidney or liver which can come from bacteria or parasites from dirt or other objects.
- Developmental disabilities.
Prevention of Pica Disorder
There is no specific way in preventing pica. Careful attention to eating habits and close care should be given to children known to put things in their mouths. This can also help in catching the disorder before problems can occur.
Diagnosis of Pica Disorder
There is no test for pica. Your doctor will diagnose this problem based on history and several other factors.
You should be honest with your doctor about the non-food items you’ve eaten. This will help them get a correct diagnosis. It may be hard for them to know you have pica if you don’t tell them what you’ve been eating. The same is true for kids or people with intellectual disabilities.
Your doctor may test your blood to see if you have low levels of zinc or iron. This can help your doctor learn if you have an underlying nutrient deficiency, such as anemia. Nutrient deficiencies is related to pica.
If pica is suspected, a medical evaluation is important. This is to check for anemia, intestinal barriers, or likely toxicity from eaten substances. If they are any known symptoms, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Certain tests such as X-rays and blood tests is carried out by the doctor to check for anemia and other toxins and substances in the blood.
The test can also be used to check for barriers in the digestive tract, infections which may be caused by eating items infected with bacteria or other diseases.
Before arriving at a diagnosis of pica, the doctor will evaluate the presence of other disorders. This include mental retardation, developmental disabilities, or obsessive-compulsive disorder which may be the cause of the odd eating behavior.
Treatment of Pica Disorder
General behavioral strategies are one of the most effective treatment ways for pica. Training in which healthy foods are edible and which foods cannot be eaten through the use of positive reinforcement can also be carried out in the treatment of pica.
Your doctor may begin by treating any problems you’ve gotten from eating non-food items. For instance, if you have lead poisoning, your doctor may prescribe chelation therapy. A drug that binds with lead is given in this procedure. This gets you to excrete the lead in your urine. Other drugs for lead poisoning include ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid or EDTA.
Your doctor may prescribe vitamin or mineral supplements if your pica is caused by nutrient imbalances. Like taking regular iron supplements.
Your doctor may also order for a psychological evaluation. This is to know if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder or another mental health condition. Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medications, therapy, or both.
Some research studies suggest that a simple multivitamin supplement may be an effective treatment in some cases of pica.
If a person with pica disorder has an intellectual disability or mental health disorder, drugs for managing behavioral problems may also be effective to reduce or eliminate their desire to eat non healthy foods.