Pica is the persistent eating of substances such as dirt or paint that have no nutritional value.
There are many potential complications of pica, such as:
Certain items, such as paint chips, may contain lead or other toxic substances and eating them can lead to poisoning, increasing the child’s risk of complications including learning disabilities and brain damage. This is the most concerning and potentially lethal side effect of pica.
Eating non-food objects can interfere with eating healthy food, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Eating objects that cannot be digested, such as stones, can cause constipation or blockages in the digestive tract, including the intestines and bowels. Also, hard or sharp objects (such as paperclips or metal scraps) can cause tears in the lining of the intestines.
Bacteria or parasites from dirt or other objects can cause serious infections. Some infections can damage the kidneys or liver.
Co-existing developmental disabilities can make treatment difficult.
What Is the Outlook for People With Pica?
Pica usually begins in childhood and typically lasts for just a few months. However, it is likely to be more difficult to manage in children who are developmentally disabled.
Can Pica Be Prevented?
There is no specific way to prevent pica. However, careful attention to eating habits and close supervision of children known to put things in their mouths may help catch the disorder before complications can occur.
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