MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Pica

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details

What is pica?

Pica is an eating disorder that causes you to eat things that aren’t food, like paper, clay, paint chips, dirt, or hair.

  • Pica can cause serious problems if the items you eat get caught in your intestines, poison you, or cause an infection

  • Pica may go away on its own, especially in children

Most things that people with pica eat aren't really harmful. However, paint chips can contain lead, which causes lead poisoning Lead Poisoning Lead is a metal that's found in things like some water pipes, old paint (from before 1978 in the United States), some pottery glazes, bullets, and some kinds of batteries. "Lead" pencils don't... read more . Dirt may contain eggs of worms or other parasites, which can infect you.

Who can have pica?

Pica isn't diagnosed in children younger than 2 years old. Very young children who are healthy often eat items that aren't food.

Some people eat nonfood items as part of their cultural or religious tradition. Pica isn't diagnosed in such people.

How can doctors tell if I have pica?

If you've been eating items that aren't food for 1 month or more, doctors may diagnose pica.

Doctors may do:

  • Blood tests to check for lead poisoning and infections

  • X-rays to look for blocked intestines

How do doctors treat pica?

Doctors may suggest therapy to change your behavior of eating things that aren’t food.

Surgery may be needed if you have blocked intestines. Doctors will treat any complications or nutritional problems caused by eating nonfood items.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Test your knowledge

Fractures of the Jaw and Midface
Fractures to one or more facial structures can result from a single injury. Jaw fractures may occur to the mandible, or lower jaw, or to the maxilla, bone of the upper jaw. Other structures susceptible to fracture include the eye sockets, nose, and cheek bones. Which of the following facial structures is most likely to fracture if a person falls from a great height or hits the windshield of a car face-first during a motor vehicle accident?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP