The medical term that describes a desire to chew or eat ice is pagophagia. Although eating ice is not dangerous on its own, a craving for ice is sometimes a symptom of iron deficiency. If you experience this symptom, contact your health-care provider to have your blood iron levels tested.
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Pagophagia and Pica
Pica refers to cravings for unusual and non-nutritive substances. Chewing on ice, or pagophagia, is one type of pica. Other types include cravings for clay, cornstarch and paper. Pica is common in children. In adults, it may indicate an emotional condition, such as stress or obsessive compulsive disorder. The desire for ice is associated with iron deficiency, although the cause of the craving is unknown, according to MayoClinic.com.
Chewing on ice does not cure an iron deficiency since ice does not contain the mineral. To raise iron levels, you need to increase the amount of iron-rich foods in your diet or take iron supplements. Your treatment will depend on your age, health and the cause of your iron deficiency. Work with your doctor to diagnose and treat iron deficiency. Aside from dietary deficiency, low iron levels may be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including chronic bleeding disorders.
Other Signs of Low Iron
In the early stages, iron deficiency may not cause any visible symptoms. As your body's iron stores are further depleted, you may experience weakness, fatigue and difficulty remaining warm. You may have difficulty concentrating, and children may display slow cognitive development. Poor immune function and susceptibility to infections is also common.
Groups at Risk
People from certain high risk groups should be routinely screened for low iron. If you belong to a high risk group, pay particular attention to signs of iron deficiency, such as a craving for ice. Pregnant women often become deficient in iron due to rapid growth and their expanding blood supply. Young children are at risk, particularly between 6 months and 3 years of age due to rapid growth and low dietary iron consumption. Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age are at risk because iron is lost through menstruation.