Pica syndrome is the desire and behavior of people to eat substances that do not exist or are not considered normal to eat. These materials can be soil, clay, sand, ice, stone, mud, cement, paper, cotton, coal, hair, lime, paint chips, matchheads, sponges, and even cigarette butts.
Pica syndrome usually occurs in pregnant women or children, but can occur in people of any age and gender. Although the exact cause of this syndrome is unknown, some research suggests that a deficiency of iron, zinc, magnesium or other minerals may trigger this syndrome.
In addition to the substances ingested in pica syndrome, there is a risk that these substances can cause intestinal obstruction, digestive problems, poisoning and other health problems. Therefore, it is recommended that people with pica syndrome consult a doctor. Using blood tests and other medical tests, doctors can diagnose mineral deficiencies or other health problems and recommend appropriate treatment.
Pica syndrome symptoms
The most obvious symptom of pica syndrome is the desire and behavior to eat objects that are not normally expected to be eaten. However, the symptoms of pica syndrome differ depending on the substances ingested. Some common symptoms are:
- Desire and behavior to eat substances such as soil, clay, sand, mud
- Desire and behavior to eat other non-materials such as ice, foam, sponge, cotton, hair, matchhead, cement, stone, lime, paint chips
- Enjoyment when ingested objects are tasteless, bitter or salty
- A metallic taste sensation in the mouth
- Digestive issues such as intestinal obstruction, digestive problems, stomach pain and nausea
- Signs of poisoning, especially if toxic substances such as lead, mercury and arsenic are ingested
- Tooth decay, gum problems and mouth sores
People with pica syndrome may be prevented from eating a healthy diet and may develop health problems due to ingested substances. Therefore, if you feel or notice any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you consult a doctor.
Pica syndrome treatment
The treatment of pica syndrome may require a number of different approaches, as the underlying cause must be addressed and the health problems caused by ingested substances. The following treatment options are available:
- Treatment of mineral deficiency: Mineral deficiency can be seen as one of the causes of pica syndrome, so doctors may try to compensate by recommending mineral supplements or dietary changes.
- Behavior therapy: Behavioral therapy is a method used by psychologists or psychiatrists. This therapy addresses the emotional or psychological factors underlying eating behaviors. Behavioral therapy can help people with pica develop their skills in not eating harmful objects and suppress this urge.
- Medication: Medication is an option that can be used to reduce the swallowing behavior of people with pica syndrome. Certain medications, particularly those prescribed for other mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, can reduce the urge to eat.
- Family support: Family or friends of people with pica syndrome can help by supporting them and removing harmful objects from them.
Treatment for pica syndrome can vary based on the underlying causes, symptoms, and each person’s condition. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and determine an appropriate treatment plan.