Pica: Common but Commonly Missed

, , and , Department of Family Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit.

J Am Board Fam Med. 2000;13(5) 

In This Article


Review of the literature on pica confirms just how little is known about this common but commonly missed condition. Its cause is related to many factors, and there are questions about whether pica is a cause of or an effect of metabolic or behavioral states. Accurate diagnosis is hindered by the need for self-reporting on the part of the patient and for a high index of suspicion on the part of the clinician. No specific screening tests for pica exist, but accurate and timely diagnosis can help to avoid some of the many nutritional and psychological complications. Finally, when pica is diagnosed, there are no proven treatments. Although selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors can be helpful in some cases, diagnosis and treatment must be individualized, and the practicing physician will most likely need to rely on help from mental health professionals.


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