Pica is defined as a eating disorder that causes a person to crave and eat non-food items that have no nutritional value. Pica can affect any person but it is more common in people living with sickle cell disease. https://www.stjude.org/treatment/patient-resources/caregiver-resources/patient-family-education-sheets/hematology/pica-and-sickle-cell-disease.html

Sickle cell disease is a group of blood disorders inherited from both parents who carry the sickle cell trait. Sickle cell results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin found in the red blood cell which results in them being rigid or like a crescent moon. Due to the shape of the red blood, they easily get stuck in small blood vessels, slowing and blocking blood flow to parts of the body causing excruciating pain in different parts of the body. Signs, symptoms and complications of sickle cell involves anemia, episodes of pain, swelling of hands and feet, infections, stroke, acute chest syndrome, priapism, gallstones and more


People with Sickle cell disease are known to have a higher rate of Pica than others. Reasons for Pica in sickle cell warriors are not known but studies suggest that Pica can be linked with nutritional deficiencies such as Iron, Vitamin B, Calcium, Zinc, developmental delay which are results of nutrients in sickle cell warriors being used quicker than they are renewed because there is more demand for red blood cells, energy and proteins. So nutrients meant for growth, repair and development are not used for their intended purposes.



Pica in sickle cell warriors is usually starts at a tender age and can manifest into adulthood. It is more common in warriors with Sickle cell disease (SS). Sickle cell warriors with Pica may eat different kinds of non-food substances such as sand, foam, sponge, ice, paper, crayons, paint, chalk, baby powder, clay,hair, gravel, clothes, toilet paper, wood, charcoal, plaster, raw rice and raw macroni and so on.

Pica if left untreated can be associated with many medical risks depending on the substances ingested and how severe the habit is. Pica can lead to meatal posioning such as lead posioning, it can also lead to build-up of different consumed food matter in the stomach and intestine leading to blockages and tear in the intestine which may require surgery.


A warrior from zambia shared her experience with Pica.

“I was addicted to eating sand, clay, chair and my own hair so much that i begun to have issues with my stomach that it even reached to a point of having worms in my stomach. Pica also caused me to have constipation and went i my mother took me to the hospital, the doctor said it was normal but was encouraged to take Folic Acid whenever i felt like eating sand i would take the tablets and it reached to an extent of my becaming addicted to Folic Acid. I had to stop because i started having teeth problems. Pica is not an easy habit to stop but you just have train your mind and be aware of the harm being done to the body.”


There is no widely-accepted treatment for Pica but Pica in sickle cell can be managed by good nutrition and therapy to help learn how to control the habit. If not managed it can be fatal. Caregivers should notice if their young warriors have a pica habit so that they can be helped while still young.