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[Pica: the portrait of a little known clinical entity].

Pica is a eating disorder, of the eating behavior in childhood. It is defined as the persistent intake of non-nutritional substances for at least one month, in an inappropriate way from an evolutionary perspective, and provided that its practice is not culturally banned. Many animal species, including primates, have this behavior. Documented from antiquity, in most cases it has been considered a symptom of another related disorder rather than as independent condition. Its prevalence is unknown. It is mainly described in mentally disabled people, pregnant women, autism, mentally ill patients, children, and others. The ingestion of earth, ice, starch, ropes, wood, and other products has been observed, although some authors also include the obsessive and reiterative consumption of eatable substances. Geophagia is considered a cultural phenomenon, although sometimes may lead to disease, and an form of paleomedicine or paleonutrition. The etiology of pica is unknown and it has no markers. Sensitive, digestive, nutritional, psychological, and psychiatric factors have been implicated in its origin and maintenance. Although the morbimortality is unknown and difficult to study, we may highlight intoxications, parasitic diseases, and surgical abdomen with serious complications. Finally, as in other eating behavior disorders, the global management of this entity requires a coordinated intervention of different health care professionals.

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