Words of Wisdom ...or so it seems...


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Rare Disease Series: Pica Syndrome

So far, after posting 3 rare disease in "Alice wha'", "Foreign Accent Syndrome" and "The Laughter may not be the best medicine", I shall highlight a disease called Pica Syndrome.

The term originated from a bird, magpie, of which the Latin name is pica. Pica will eat anything, and so will sufferers of pica syndrome. Laymen term would be "cravings", example would be pregnant women or children, sufferers develop an appetite for non-nutritive substances, such as paint, clay, plaster or dirt, or alternatively items that are more commonly considered to be food ingredients, such as raw rice, flour or salt. Imagine stuffing yourself with crayons while wondering ,"what the....".

However, it can only be considered pica if the appetite persists for over a month and the sufferer is of an age where eating these objects is considered developmentally inappropriate. So, for those who will eat anything all the time and blame the obesity they suffer on anything and everything else except themselves, the "inappropriate age" would probably be sometime past 3 years old, and nice try but NO, you are not a Pica Syndrome's just gluttony. But look at the bright side of this. Pica sufferers would be expected to do very well in programs like "Fear Factor".

I always tell my patients, "Pantang ya, bukan pantang tengok". In some country, people die of hunger. In Malaysia, people die from excessive consumption of food. Of course if you have underlying medical problems that causes obesity (e.g. , Cushing's Disease, Hypothyroidism, tumour in brain, those subjected to taking steroids).

That is why I get upset with the people who would make fun of those who are obese. One, you don't know whether the cause of obesity is medical in origin. Two, even if it is not, have some empathy because loosing weight is really a tough thing to do. Trust me, you may think the obese don't mind it when you make fun of them in public especially, but deep down inside, they do. It's like having a heart condition and instead of showing some empathy, your friends are making fun of it.

Although medical researchers have tenuously linked pica with a mineral deficiency, but according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, experts have yet to nail down a real, firm cause or cure for this strange disorder. I don't understand why people say studying medical is tough. After all almost half the cause of the medical conditions states : "cause unknown". Less stuff to memorize!!

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