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A person afflicted with Pica has a persistent craving for a substance that is not commonly considered to be food. The substances that are craved and ingested tend to vary with the person’s age. Children with pica may eat glue, animal droppings, sand, insects, leaves, or gravel. Adolescents and adults may consume clay, laundry detergent, or soil.
Although the cravings associated with pica may be related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, ingesting non-foods can cause serious medical complications such as intestinal obstruction, intestinal perforation, infections, or lead poisoning. Pica is most frequently seen in young children and pregnant women. While the exact cause for pica is still uncertain, factors such as emotional deprivation, poverty, poor nutrition, anemia, neglect, lack of parental supervision, or developmental delay increase the risk for a person developing this eating disorder.
There are no laboratory tests for pica. Instead, the diagnosis is made from a clinical history of the patient.
Diagnosing Pica should be accompanied by tests for anemia, potential intestinal blockages, and toxic side effects of substances consumed (i.e., lead in paint)
It is unclear how many people are affected by Pica. It most likely is more prevalent in developing countries.
Pica can affect children, adolescents, and adults of any genders.
Those who are pregnant and craving nonfood items should only be diagnosed with Pica when their cravings lead to Ingesting nonfood items, and the Ingestion of those items poses a potential medical risk (either due to the quantity or type of item being ingested).
Pica can be associated with intellectual disability, Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), and Excoriation (skin picking) disorder.
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