Medical Problems Associated with Anorexia and Bulimia
The most common reason for death amongst those with anorexia is heart failure, while the most common reason amongst those with bulimia is rupturing in the intestinal area as well as heart failure. Unfortunately, because eating disorders are constantly glamorized by society, many aren't even aware of the internal and external damage that inevitably occurs from these self-destructive demons. Hopefully this list of medical complications will help you or someone you know see just why it's a grEAT idea to get help ASAP.
Thermoregulatory problems: Loss of body fat creates it so that the body has no way of insulating and keeping heat anymore. For the person with anorexia it seems like everyday, even if it is 85 degrees, is freezing. This can also be due to electrolyte disturbances from not eating properly.
Decreased eye movement
Insomnia: Mostly due from electrolytic disturbances and hormonal problems
Anemia: Poor blood from not enough iron; causes lack of vitality and problems with bruising frequently
Dental erosion: Yes, your teeth will rot with anorexia even if you do not purge. Most of those with anorexia do not get enough calcium in their diets and because of this the body begins to find calcium elsewhere and takes it out of body parts such as the bones but also the teeth. The teeth are stripped of the calcium and become weak.
Delayed gastric emptying: The tone of the stomach area becomes poor and weak so that it cannot produce the power to push out whatever food the person with anorexia does eat. This can lead to a lot of toxins building up inside which also weakens the immune system and leaves the person with anorexia susceptible to many more viruses.
Diarrhea: Also from the delayed gastric emptying, but can also be because of laxative abuse.
Acidosis:Blood becomes too acidic, which can lead to other sicknesses
Osteoporosis: Bones become significantly weakened, leaving the person with anorexia susceptible to broken bones from just falling out of bed.
Bradycardia: Slow/irregular heart beat.
Dysrhythmia: Heart out of rythm; sudden death
Edema: Occurs from not eating properly and also purging; there is a water retention imbalance which causes the feet and hands to swell
Amenorrhea: Indicates a failure of hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal interaction to produce cyclic changes in the endometrium resulting in menses. In other words the periods stop or do not start. Primary amenorrhea is the absence of menarche by age 16 and Secondary amenorrhea is the absence of menarche for more than 3 months.
Metabolic problems - Hypocalcemia: Low blood glucose levels from too low of weight and malnutrition. Signs of this include listlessness, jitteriness, and seizures.
Lanugo: A soft downy hair/fur begins to grow to try to insulate heat because the body does not have enough calories to burn to produce heat.
Decreased cardica muscle, mass chamber size, and output: This often leads to cardiac arrest
Hypkalemia: Deficiency of potassium
Weak hair that often falls out: Along with dry skin and brittle nails this consequence is a result of not enough fat in the diet.
Urinary tract infections: Decreased fluid intake is the cause of this.
Loss of potassium: Can result in diminished reflexes, fatigue, and cardiac arrythmias.
Thermoregulatory problems: Those with bulimia also have this problem. Electrolytic imbalances from purging usually cause the person with bulimia to have erratic temperature changes, so that one minute they are feeling warm and the next getting shivers and cold chills.
Insomnia: Mostly due from electrolytic disturbances and hormonal problems
Anemia: Purging wipes out precious iron from the person with bulimia's system.
Dental erosion: If the person with bulimia does not come forward about their problem, then most likely their dentist will spot it. The acid in our intestines that digests our food comes up when the person with bulimia purges, slowly deteriorating the enamel that protects the teeth. A dentist is able to spot this easily for the fact that many of them have had to go through specific courses when in dentistry school, which has given them a list of problems with the teeth caused specifically from repeated vomiting. The way the food and acid splash up against the teeth leaves a certain pattern that is the trademark of repeated vomiting. The constant erosion of the teeth usually leads to the enamel slewing off, and as a result, lots of cavities. It's not uncommon to hear of someone with bulimia to end up dealing with more than one root canal in their lifetime.
Ruptured blood vessels in the eyes
Paratoid swelling: Glands in the throat and mouth become irritated and swell.
Esophageal tears: The constant heaving of stomach acid eventually causes the stomach lining to wear off. The added pressure from purging also adds into this, and the person with bulimia stands a great risk of tearing their esophagus which leads to hemorraging and even rupturing of the esophagus.
Delayed gastric emptying: The tone of the stomach area becomes poor and weak so that it cannot produce the power to push out whatever food someone with bulimia eats. This can lead to a lot of toxins building up inside the body which also weakens the immune system and leaves the person susceptible to many viruses.
Chronic diarrhea and/or constipation : Those with bulimia often abuse laxatives, which can cause them to forever have diarrhea. In severe cases the person eventually loses all control over their bowels as well, forcing them to have to wear some form of a diaper.
Acidosis: Blood gets too acidic which can lead to other sicknesses
Osteoporosis : Bones become significantly weakened, leaving the person susceptible to broken bones from just falling out of bed.
Bradycardia: From purging, things called electrolytes become imbalanced. Electrolytes help control your heart's beat among other things, and once they are off balance your heart rate will suffer - most likely dropping too low.
Dysrhythmia: Sudden death from potassium levels being too low.
Edema: Bloating and water retention
Ulcers: The stomach lining slews off the more you throw up. Pretty soon the stomach has no protection against its acids, and the stomach acid starts to burn holes through the stomach. Eventually an ulcer forms and often becomes infected (think puss and germs - not pretty).
Amenorrhea: Some people think that you can only lose your period if you are underweight, but this is not true. Purging can seriously mess up a person's hormones which can lead to missing periods.
Metabolic problems - Hypocalcemia
Urinary tract infections: Dehydration is common in those with bulimia, and bladder infections can become an often problem.
Loss of potassium : Purging, laxative, and diuretic abuse is a big factor into this. All three of these things causes vital fluids to be lost and creates the potassium levels of those with bulimia to drop dangerously low, setting them up for heart failure.
Chronic sore throat: Not fun to wake up every morning feeling like you have strep throat.
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Staff, H. (2008, December 11). Medical Problems Associated with Anorexia and Bulimia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/articles/medical-problems-associated-with-anorexia-and-bulimia