Medical News Today: What to know about pica

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A doctor may prescribe medication if they believe pica is the result of an underlying mental health condition.

Eating nonfood items can cause issues such as stomach pain and broken teeth. Treating pica typically begins with addressing these problems first.

Some people develop lead poisoning, infections, or other severe symptoms as a result of pica. Treatment in these cases might include antibiotics or even surgery.

To treat pica itself, a doctor must first identify why the person craves nonfood items. This usually involves assessing their medical history to understand any symptoms or risk factors. They may also use blood tests to check for nutritional deficits.

A doctor might also look at:

  • sensory-seeking behaviors, such as chewing nonfood items
  • whether or not a person understands that these items are not edible
  • cultural beliefs surrounding nonfood items

Addressing these issues may help reduce a person’s cravings.

Some treatment options for pica include:

  • occupational therapy
  • sensory support, such as providing a safer item to chew on
  • medication to treat underlying mental health conditions, if present
  • reducing nutrient deficits with supplements, dietary changes, or both

In pregnant women, pica may go away on its own after childbirth.

Sometimes, it can be worth waiting to initiate treatment when the nonfood item is relatively harmless, such as when a person craves ice.

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