PICA: A Strange Eating Disorder

PICA: A Strange Eating Disorder

We all are familiar with different human health disorders like stomach disorder, mental disorder etc. but very few of us know about PICA. Now it comes to the point that what is basically this strange disorder is. PICA is the Latin name of a bird called “Magpie” belongs to Corvidae (crow) family and it is widely known to be the most intelligent animal this bird is known for eating almost everything. Pica is the name of their Genus.

PICA is basically a habit of eating nonfood items that are nonnutritive in nature. Such as bricks, chalk, paper or wood(Xylophagia), soli, dirt, clay(Geophagia), soap, ice(Pagophagia) , hair(Trichophagia) , drywall or paint, glass(Hyalophagia) , feces(Coprophagia) , burnt matches(Cautopyreiophagia) , starch(Amylophagia) , dust(Coniophagia), stones(Lithophagia), mucus(Mucophagia), vomit(Emetophagia), lead(Plumbophagia), blood(Vampirism), urine(Urophagia), sharp objects(Acuphagia).

If diverse symptoms of anemia, intestinal blockages or potential toxicity of ingested substances occur then there are many chances that patient is suffering from Pica. PICA is found mostly in pregnant women and children that have different development disabilities (Autism). The main cause of pica is not exactly known yet. Many hypotheses have been developed which comprise the variety of factors that may cause pica. These factors may include cultural influences, socioeconomic status, deficit disease and some other psychological disorders. A connecting association is present between malnutrition and PICA that has not been surely recognized yet. It may also occur when the patient is iron deficient and iron deficiency prompts a person to eat clay. Iron-deficient patients also chew ice cubes but the basic mechanism is not known yet. A study shows that 262 non-pregnant women are iron deficient and 45% of them reported pica disorder and 83% reported eating ice. Craving for different foods especially pickles in pregnant women is somehow associated with pica. Autistic children are more suffered from pica.  Most of the children from low socioeconomic families use to eat paint and other non-food items because of hunger. Some people that are mentally retarded do not differentiate between food and non-food items. Pica is mostly seen in the children as well as adults that are mentally disabled, and it occurs at the age of between 10 to 20 years. The prevalence rate of pica in institutionalized population is estimated from 4% to 26% but in non-institutionalized countries, the prevalence rate is not estimated yet. In most cases, it occurs in children older than 18 t0 24 months. Researchers find that pica occurs in 25% to 30% of young children that are mentally ill. A person that is suffering from pica may develop different surreptitious behaviors as well as they awake late night to eat. Pica is most often in young pregnant women especially in southern United States as well as in some immigrants. If we talk about males pica occurs in equal frequency as compared to female. It is very scarce but it may occur in males of average intelligence who lives in developed countries. Pica is most commonly seen in western countries that are traced as iron deficient as well as pica is widespread in countries like western Kenya, southern Africa and India. Australia, Canada, Israel, Iran, Uganda, Wales and Jamaica. Pica is basically associated with decreased level of Dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps in transmission of nerve impulse in the whole body. Many researchers have found that there is the strong affiliation between the low level of dopamine and pica disorder. Pica can cause epilepsy, brain damage, family disorganization, child/parental psychopathy, belly aches, nausea, bloating, fatigue and behavior problems. Effects of pica include Potassium abnormalities, Gastrointestinal problems, blockage colon ischemia, iron deficiency other parasitic infections and heavy metal exposure.

Treatment includes many methods. One of the treatment is mild aversion therapy in which person got the reward for eating normal food rather than non-food items. Different behavioral strategies may be used to cure pica disorder it includes

Discrimination training

Mouth self-protection devices

Brief physical restraint

Overcorrection (alternative response)

Reinforcement behaviors

Screening techniques (covering eyes)

Aversive oral taste (mint, lemon etc.)

Aversive smell sensation

Aversive physical sensation (mist of water)

Removal of toxic substances from home like paint may prevent a child to ingest it. It is necessary to give proper diet to fulfil the nutritional deficiencies as a result of no deficiency child or adult feels hale and hearty. Assured management medications also used to cure pica. Drugs like Olanzapine, Clozapine and Risperidone helps to cure pica. Personal treatment plans, social worker consolations, as well as diet and dental consolations, helps in the treatment of pica (eating disorder).

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