Understanding Pica Syndrome Caused By Iron Deficiency

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There are many different eating disorders that exist, but pica is an especially unique one in which people eat dirt and other nonfood items on a regular basis.

These habits can be very disturbing and even life threatening if the cause of the pica disease isn’t determined and treated. Pica anemia is also a serious issue, as there are strong connections between this condition and iron deficiency anemia.

This article will provide an overview of what pica syndrome is and how an iron deficiency can be the underlying cause of the disease. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options to replenish essential nutrients in the body and reverse the destructive habits associated with this eating disorder.

Symptoms of Pica

Not only are individuals with pica syndrome likely to eat dirt, but many other unusual items with no nutritional value as well. This can include soap, ice, sand, paint, chalk, glue, and hair. It is also common to find a person with pica disease eating clay, cigarette ashes, and even feces.

What Causes Pica?

Pica syndrome is most commonly caused by a nutritional deficiency, such as iron or zinc. This occurs because the body is trying to replenish its low nutrient levels through whatever means necessary. Other causes of pica syndrome relate to mental health conditions, like obsessive-compulsive disorder or schizophrenia. People who are malnourished, in general, may turn to nonfood items out of desperation as well.

What Is Pica Anemia?

Pica anemia is a condition associated with eating nonfood items because of an iron deficiency in the body. This is often a subconscious craving that individuals cannot control. Iron supplements, such as Fergon, may be recommended to pica anemia patients to restore bodily iron to normal levels. Once this is accomplished, the pica disease symptoms typically subside or go away entirely.

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Pica Pregnancy and Pica in Kids

Unfortunately, pica syndrome most commonly affects vulnerable populations like pregnant women and kids. Pica pregnancy usually results from low iron levels because a woman’s pregnant body requires more of this nutrient while carrying a child.

Although there are no laboratory tests for pica disease, a doctor may test an individual’s blood for anemia. Tests may also be conducted to check for intestinal blockages and any toxic side effects from the substances being consumed. For example, an individual may contract lead poisoning from eating paint or harmful bacteria from eating clay or dirt.

Pica Disease Treatment Options

It’s important to know that there are proven and effective pica disease treatment options that can be pursued, regardless of what caused the pica symptoms. The first step in treating pica is to test for mineral deficiencies and correct them.

Behavioral therapy may also be recommended in order to help the patient associate eating nonfood items with negative consequences. Positive reinforcement for eating healthy foods can also help pica syndrome patients regain a normal lifestyle and approach to eating meals. To prevent eating disorders like pica disease from forming in the first place, it is advised to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of iron and zinc in daily meals and to supplement as necessary.

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