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Pagophagia - My Addiction to Ice

Updated on January 3, 2015
"Ice cube splashing in water"
"Ice cube splashing in water" | Source

Hi I'm Kay and I am a recovered Pagophangiast!

For two years I craved ice. No, that doesn't quite describe it.
I CRAVED ice. I NEEDED ice. I took my ice seriously!
I even purchased a portable ice maker that would run from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. When my ice machine died from serious overuse, I purchased large bags of ice almost daily from our local grocer. Fortunately, I can happily report that I am a recovered ice addict and it happened suddenly!

Okay, so I don't really think Pagophangiast is a real word but pagophagia is a very real disorder and one from which I am no longer struggling!

If you can relate to the CRAVING, this page is for you.

Pagophagia? What is that?

If you crave ice, you have pagophagia. Pagophagia is a form of Pica so let’s begin by discussing Pica.

Pica is when you crave substances with little to no nutritional value. This becomes a disorder when you crave them for more than a month at a time. It is not unusual to hear of women craving things like clay or chalk. In retrospect, ice seems a lot more normal but may well indicate a serious health problem.

People with pagophagia need ice the way an alcoholic craves alcohol or a smoker needs a cigarette. People may think ice chewing isn’t that big a deal but it does indicate health risks and can cause problems.

Do you have pagophagia?

See results

A Serious Health Concern

If you like to snack on ice daily, you need to hightail it in to see your physician. You need to be tested for Iron Deficiency Anemia.

While I had heard from my physician that there was a possible link between ice chewing and anemia. I didn't know how serious my Anemia truly was until I ended up in the Emergency Room with heart problems. Yes, they'd been monitoring my levels and they were often very low but they never checked my ferritin. Turns out, I had no detectable levels of iron in my body when my heart starting acting up. I've probably been this way for the last couple years which coincidentally is when I really started craving ice. I had been anemic at this point for about eight years but the real health problems began in the last couple years. I was even told by two doctors that if we did not get 'fix' my anemia, it was serious enough that I would probably not see my children grow up. Yes, it was that serious.

Yes, other conditions may be the cause of your pagophagia but research indicates that most often iron deficiency anemia may well be the culprit.

Another Serious Concern for those with Pagophagia

Your Teeth

Ice is just tough on your teeth. Any dentist will tell you that you are doing serious damage and often they can tell you are ice chewing without you saying a word. My dentist knew about my habit. I was always up front with him. He also understood that this was a habit I was not easily able to break so he was kind while lecturing me. Yes, I have actually cracked a tooth while chewing ice. I have also worn my molars down quite a bit.

If you crave ice, please get tested for Anemia and ask to have your ferritin levels checked as well!

You Are Not Alone

I had a friend visit and we were comparing ice stories. She told me about her favorite forum for ice chewers. Yes, she has since gone on to find out she is anemic as well.

Want to talk to other ice chewers?

Ice Chewers Bulletin Board

Isn't that like sharing with an alcoholic your favorite forum on the proper way to mix beverages, you ask? Well, no, not really. This forum discusses the medical issues associated with ice chewing as well as ways to make the ice 'softer' so you don't do as much damage to your teeth while you take care of the problem.

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Woman Drinking Water From Tall Glass
Woman Drinking Water From Tall Glass | Source

How I Once and For all Ended my Ice Chewing Habit

look Ma, no ice!

After I ended up in the ER, I began seeing a Hematologist. Side note here, if you have anemia, seek an appointment with a Hematologist. For years, I had dealt with various physicians and never really truly improved. Within weeks of my first Hematology appointment, I was a new woman! If you'd like to read that story:

Intravenous Iron Infusion and Me

Interesting to note that after my very first intravenous iron infusion, I no longer wanted ice in any way! In fact, when we go out, I ask for water WITHOUT ice! This was not even weeks after my first IV. This was immediate. In fact, I had just bought a brand new 10-lbs bag of ice and finally used it in an ice chest a few months later!

Update:

I have been about 15 months ice free! I don't even want it in my cup anymore. It is so strange. While my ferritin (iron) levels have dropped to undetectable levels, my hemoglobin has not dropped much. I really believe now that the ice cravings go hand in hand with low hemoglobin. Fortunately, they check me every so often and we catch the deficiency before we get to that point.

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An Interesting Study

on ice chewing and anemia

While writing this page, I stumbled across this study:

Craving for ice and iron-deficiency anemia: a case series from Oman.

Interestingly enough, once the iron deficiency anemia was treated in these patients, their ice chewing spontaneously resolved within a couple of weeks. The study also cautions physicians to check for iron deficiency anemia if their patient is an ice chewer.

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Some Articles and Pages of Interest

Is constantly craving and chewing ice a sign of anemia? A short article from the Mayo Clinic

Pagophagia and Iron Deficiency Anemia A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. You need to be a member to read the full article but the summary is interesting.

Save Your Teeth

If you also are an ice addict, I recommend these trays. The ice cubes are much smaller and not as likely to hurt your teeth. Notice, I said not as likely! You still should figure out why you are craving ice but in the meantime, do as little damage as you can!

Pagophagia in the News!

I'll add links as I come across them. If any of these links are broken, please, leave a comment and I'll remove the link. Thank you!

Wife stealing, compulsive chewing and artisanal carving - the cool history of ice in America

Pagophagia on CNN!

Need to contact the author? You may e-mail Cari_Kay at carikay11@gmail.com

I was interviewed by Cosmopolitan magazine about my addiction. You can read that interview here: I Was Addicted to Chewing Ice

Are you an ice chewer? Are you a former ice chewer? Did you just stumble across this page? I'd love to hear from you.

If you feel this page could help others, feel free to click on the Google +1 button at the top of the page (for those of you with Google accounts). Thank you!

I'd love to hear from you

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      melbourne Mike 23 months ago

      Yes...TRUE! I've been anemic for nearly 20 years...my ice chewing has bordered on crazy recently and my last blood work showed a NEGIGIBLE reading on Ferritin which should be around 300 mine is less than 15. Word to the wise...if you find yourself chewing ice...your probably are anemic and need to get that checked.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 2 years ago

      You really should go get checked. Treatments immediately took away my cravings. Please, let me know if you see the doctor.

    • profile image

      help me 2 years ago

      Uhm..im a 14 years old girl..i feel like i want to chew ice all the time...i chew ice every day...i just love it so much..at first, i thought that this wont last long and i can handle it..but then..i crave for ice more than usual..my mum keep advising me to stop eating the ice because it will affect my teeth..yeah..you know..i just cant even though i know that it is bad for my health...i don't go for any check up and i know it will cost a lot of money..and the most important thing is im afraid to tell my mum that i may be suffering for anemia..so do you have any other way to cure this habit.. help me...i do really really really want to stop this..

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 3 years ago

      @candy-fletchermoreland: I was the same way! I was buying those giant bags of ice and would go through them in a hurry. It was like smoking! I always had to have a cup of ice with me and had giant cups I could take in the car. Have they done an iron infusion on you because IMMEDIATELY after my iron infusion, I no longer wanted ice at all. It was astounding.

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      candy-fletchermoreland 3 years ago

      Your story, is my exact story. I have had anemia for years. approx 7 yrs. I have eaten ice for all that time. It's my most favorite thing to do. I absolutely love it. I am scheduled for a hysterectomy on the 22nd of Jan, to try to resolve the anemia. Due to several conditions that affect my uterus, I lose massive amounts of blood each month, causing the anemia. I have had one blood transfusion and am currently nearing the point of needing another one. My latest lab results showed that my bone marrow is producing too many new red blood cells to try to make up for the anemia. I've known for 7 years that i've been anemic and I've refused to take iron or do anything to reduce my monthly periods because i LOVE eating ice so much that I am willing to be unhealthy in exchange for eating the ice! It wasn't until recently when I ended up in the E.R with what felt like a heart attack that I sought help. After being referred to a cardiologist, who I quickly adored, I realized that I have to quit this. He looked straight at me and said "the ice is going to kill you". I eat a ten pound bag per day or every day and a half. I don't just have PICA, I had some added psychological problems with the ice, because it has to be a specific kind and only that kind (Reddy Ice which is sold in the ice chests outside of most stores). I guess it is a blessing that my uterus has several conditions that require me to have a hysterectomy, because i've fully compromised my health for the love of ice. After I have the hysterectomy and recover, I guess I will see a hematologist and if this can't be fixed that way, my cardiologist said that I may need to see a psychiatrist, for the obsessive compulsive aspect of it. I am sad to think that I will no longer enjoy cups of ice. I know my husband and kids will love it! Because the crunching annoys them so badly. I would love to hear a response from anybody that has a similar story as mine!

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