Pica is the eating of non-food substances. Clay, dirt, ice, sand, animal feces, paint, and hairballs are just a few examples of what children and adults with pica have been known to eat.
- The cause of pica is not known.
- Infants and children with pica commonly eat paint, plaster, string, hair, and cloth. Older children may eat animal droppings, sand, insects, leaves, pebbles and cigarette butts. Adolescents and adults most often ingest clay or soil.
- The symptoms of pica vary with the item ingested.
- Sand or soil is associated with gastric pain and occasional bleeding.
- Chewing ice may cause abnormal wear on teeth.
- Eating clay may cause constipation.
- Swallowing metal objects may lead to bowel perforation.
- Eating fecal material often leads to such infectious diseases as toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichuriasis.
- Consuming lead can lead to kidney damage and mental retardation.