Pica: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Test and Treatment

Pica is one type of eating disorder in which people eat non-food items. Pica is more common in pregnant women and children.

Design by pexels

Table of Contents

Types of Pica

The subtypes of pica characterized by the substance eaten, for example:

  • Amylophagia: Consumption of starch
  • Coprophagy: Consumption of Animal feces
  • Geophagy: Consumption of soil, clay, or chalk
  • Hyalophagia: Consumption of glass
  • Pagophiagia: Pathological consumption of ice
  • Trichophagia: Consumption of hair or wool
  • Urophagia: Consumption of urine 

this eating pattern takes at least one month to diagnose.

Causes of pica

Pica may occur due to acquired taste or neurological mechanisms like iron deficiency or chemical imbalance. 

Pica is also linking to mental disability. 

Stressors such as family conflict, maternal deprivation, parental neglect, poverty, disorganized family, etc.

Recent research suggests that pica is a disorder of specific appetite caused by a mineral deficiency, in many cases, iron deficiency, which is the result of a hookworm infestation.

Sign and symptoms of pica

The primary symptom of pica is eating things that are not included in the food. People with pica develop a wide range of other symptoms, including:

  • Stomach pain
  • Lead poisoning
  • Bloody stool
  • Broken teeth

People also with pica trusted sources have nutrient deficits. For example, people with low iron, hemoglobin, and hematocrit.


The craving for paint chips is very dangerous especially when the paint chips are from old buildings, some complication of pica includes:

  • Poisoning
  • Choking
  • Breaking teeth
  • Developing ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Pica in pregnancy

Pica can happen in pregnant women, especially when women with nutrient deficits. Pregnant women with pica must resist the temptation to eat non-food items to avoid causing harm to the fetus.

In many cases of pica, if pregnant women start taking iron supplements can help reduce these cravings.

I had earlier shared Pregnancy Tips. I hope you read the post.

Management fo pica

  • Pica is managing by a combination of psychosocial, environmental, dietary, and family guidance approach. 
  • SSRI (antidepressant) drugs can use for pica disorder.
  • Discrimination training between edible and non-edible items.
  • Detect nutritional deficiencies and treat them—for example, anemia, low level of calcium, etc.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant.
  • Meet the emotional needs of the child.
  • Don’t leave the child alone.
  • Keep the child busy, as boredom may give him time for eating non-edible substances.

Frequently Asked Question

What Causes Pica?

Iron deficiency, malnutrition, or anemia are two of the most common causes of Pica, followed by pregnancy. Pica is a sign that the body is trying to restore a powerful nutrient deficiency in these people. Treating this deficiency with medication and vitamins often resolves the problems.

How do you stop Pica?

There is no exact way to prevent Pica. However, careful awareness of eating habits and close supervision of kids known to put things in their mouths may help catch the infection before complications happen.

Is Pica a neurological disorder?

Pica is currently identified as a mental disorder by the Diagnostic or Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). According to the DSM-5, mineral deficiencies are sometimes associated with Pica, but biological abnormalities are rarely found.

What are the long-term effects of Pica?

When Pica is long-term effects, it can result in bowel obstruction, bezoars, and even toxicity. In addition, ingestion of dirt and paint can lead to diseases or heavy metal toxicity. Many reports exist of people who have experienced surgery to relieve bowel obstruction, perforation, and ulcers.

Does Pica go away?

Pica usually goes away in a few months without treatment in children or pregnant women. If a lack of nutrition deficiency is causing your Pica, treating it should ease your symptoms. Pica doesn’t always go away. It can last for years, mainly in people who have intellectual disabilities.




Better treatment can help with both the psychological and physical aspects of pica. They can help a person overcome their cravings habit and return to a regular diet.

It is better to work with your doctor to support your child in changing their behavior.

You must read this articles: 

Like this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

Sharing is caring ❤

Scroll to Top