PICA Syndrome – Signs and Symptoms , Complications and Management

PICA Syndrome – Signs and Symptoms , Complications and Management


Pica is the persistent eating of substances such as dirt or paint that have no nutritional value.

Pre-school problem seen mostly below 3 years


Consumption of substances with no significant nutritional value (soil, soap or ice).
Subtypes are characterized by the substance eaten:

Acuphagia (sharp objects)
Amylophagia (starch)
Cautopyreiophagia (burnt matches)
Coniophagia (dust)
Coprophagia (feces)
Emetophagia (vomit)
Geomelophagia (raw potatoes)
Geophagia (dirt, soil, clay)
Hyalophagia (glass)
Lithophagia (stones)
Mucophagia (mucus of invertebrates and fish)
Pagophagia (ice)
Plumbophagia (lead)
Trichophagia (hair, wool, and other fibers)
Urophagia (urine)
Hematophagia (Vampirism) (blood)
Xylophagia (wood)

Medical evaluation:

2. Intestinal blockages, or potential toxicity from ingested substances.
3. Toxins and other substances in the blood,
4. Eating habit
5. Presence of other disorders- such as mental retardation, developmental disabilities, or obsessive-compulsive disorder – as the cause of the odd eating behavior.

This pattern of behavior must last at least one month for a diagnosis of pica to be made.


Given the risk of medical complications (such as lead poisoning) associated with pica, close medical monitoring is necessary throughout treatment of the eating behavior.

Additionally, close collaboration with a mental health team skilled in treating pica is ideal for optimal treatment of these complex cases.

Lead or other toxic substances poisoning
Increasing the child’s risk of complications including learning disabilities and brain damage

Nutritional deficiencies.

Constipation or blockages in the digestive tract, including the intestines and bowels.

Tears in the lining of the esophagus or intestines.

Bacteria or parasites from dirt or other objects can cause serious infections.

Co-existing developmental disabilities can make treatment difficult.

Exam Important Points

Pica is a pre-school problem seen in children most commonly below 3 year

Pica is associated with lead poisoning

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