Physical & Medical



Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa:

  The process of starvation associated with Anorexia Nervosa can affect most organ systems. Physical signs and symptoms include but are not limited to constipation, abnormally low heart rate, abdominal distress, dryness of skin, hypotension, fine body hair, lack of menstrual periods. Anorexia Nervosa causes anemia, cardiovascular problems, changes in brain structure, osteoporosis, and kidney dysfunction.
Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
Muscle loss and weakness.
Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.
Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.


  In anorexia nervosa there is a cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences.
Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
Muscle loss and weakness.
Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

Physical/Medical Complications

Fatigue and lack of energy
Amenorrhea(loss of menstruation)
Skin problems
Dizziness and headaches
Dehydration
Shortness of breath
Irregular heartbeats
Cold hands and feet
Bloating
Constipation
Hair loss
Stomach pains
Decreased metabolic rate
Edema (water retention)
Lanugo(fine downy hair)
Loss of bone mass
Kidney and liver damage
Electrolyte imbalances
Osteoporosis
Insomnia
Anemias
Infertility
Depression

More detailed descriptions

Cathartic colon(caused from laxative abuse)
Low potassium (most common cause of nocturnal cardiac arrest)
Cardiac arrest and death
Diabetes - high blood sugar as a result of low production of insulin. This can be caused by hormonal imbalances, hyperglycemia or chronic pancreatitis.
Digestive Difficulties - a deficiency in digestive enzymes will lead to the body's inability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. This can lead to mal-absorption problems, malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances. Dry Skin and Hair, Brittle Hair and Nails,
Hair Loss - caused by Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration
Edema - swelling of the soft tissues as a result of excess water accumulation. Most common in the legs and feet of Compulsive Overeaters and in the abdominal area of Anorexics and/or Bulimics (can be caused by Laxative and Diuretic use).
Electrolyte Imbalances - electrolytes are essential to the production of the body's "natural electricity" that ensures healthy teeth, joints and bones, nerve and muscle impulses, kidneys and heart, blood sugar levels and the delivery of oxygen to the cells. Bad Circulation, Slowed or Irregular Heartbeat, Arrhythmias, Angina
Heart Attack -There are many factors associated with having an Eating Disorder that can lead to heart problems or a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest can cause permanent damage to the heart, or instant death. Electrolyte imbalances (especially potassium deficiency), dehydration, malnutrition, low blood pressure, extreme orthostatic hypotension, abnormally slow heart rate, electrolyte imbalances, and hormonal imbalances call all cause serious problems with the heart.
Esophageal Reflux - Acid Reflux Disorders - partially digested items in the stomach, mixed with acid and enzymes, regurgitates back into the esophagus. This can lead to damage to the esophagus, larynx and lungs and increases the chances of developing cancer of the esophagus and voice box.
Gastric Rupture - spontaneous stomach erosion, perforation or rupture.
High Blood Pressure, Hypertension - elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90. Can cause: blood vessel changes in the back of the eye creating vision impairment; abnormal thickening of the heart muscle; kidney failure; and brain damage.
Hyperactivity - manic behavior; not being able to sit still. Impaired Neuromuscular Function - due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and malnutrition.
Infertility - the inability to have children; caused by loss of menstrual cycle, and hormonal imbalances. Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies can also make it impossible to succeed with a full-term pregnancy, and can increase the chances significantly of a baby born with birth defects.
Insomnia - having problems falling and/or staying asleep.
Iron Deficiency, Anemia - this makes the oxygen transporting units within the blood useless and can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections, and heart palpitations.
Kidney Infection and Failure - kidneys cleanse the poisons from your body, regulate acid concentration and maintain water balance. Vitamin Deficiencies, dehydration, infection and low blood pressure increase the risks of and associated with kidney infection thus making permanent kidney damage and kidney failure more likely.
Lanugo - (soft downy hair on face, back and arms). This is caused due to a protective mechanism built-in to the body to help keep a person warm during periods of starvation and malnutrition, and the hormonal imbalances that result.
Liver Failure - the liver aids in removing waste from cells, and aids in digestion. Fasting and taking acetaminophen (drug found in over-the-counter painkillers) increases your risks for Liver damage and failure. Loss of menstruation and dehydration (putting women at risk for too much iron in their system), and chronic heart failure can lead to liver damage or failure.
Hypotension - caused by lowered body temperature, malnutrition and dehydration. Can cause heart arrhythmias, shock or myocardial infarction. Lowered body temperature - caused by loss of healthy insulating layer of fat and lowered blood pressure.
Malnutrition - caused by under eating or overeating. Malnutrition indicates deficiency for energy, protein and micronutrients (e.g. vitamin A, iodine and iron) either singularly or in combination. It can cause severe health risks including (but not limited to) respiratory infections, kidney failure, blindness, heart attack and death.
Mallory-Weiss tear -associated with vomiting, a tear of the gastro esophageal junction.
Muscle Atrophy - wasting away of muscle and decrease in muscle mass due to the body feeding off of itself.
Orthostatic Hypotension - sudden drop in blood pressure upon sitting up or standing. Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, passing out, heart pounding and headaches.
Osteoporosis - thinning of the bones with reduction in bone mass due to depletion of calcium and bone protein, predisposing to fractures.
Osteopenia - below normal bone mass indicating a calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency and leading to Osteoporosis. Hormone imbalance/deficiencies associated with the loss of the menstrual cycle can also increase your risks of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.
Pancreatitis - when the digestive enzymes attack the pancreas; caused by repeated stomach trauma, alcohol consumption or the excessive use of laxatives or diet pills.
Peptic Ulcers - caused by increased stomach acids, cigarette smoking, high consumption of caffeine or alcohol.
Pregnancy problems - including potential for high-risk pregnancies, miscarriage, still born babies and death or chronic illnesses from minor to severe, in children born (all due to malnutrition, dehydration, vitamin and hormone deficiencies).
Swelling - in face and cheeks (following self-induced vomiting)
Seizures - increased risk of seizures in Anorexic and Bulimic individuals may be caused by dehydration. It is also possible that lesions on the brain caused by long-term malnutrition and lack of oxygen-carrying cells to the brain may play a role.
Tearing of Esophagus - caused by self-induced vomiting TMJ "Syndrome"
Degenerative arthritis within the tempero-mandibular joint in the jaw (where the lower jaw hinges to the skull) creating pain in the joint area, headaches, and problems chewing and opening/closing the mouth. Vitamin deficiencies and teeth grinding (often related to stress) can both be causes. Weakness and Fatigue - caused generalized poor eating habits, electrolyte imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, depression, malnutrition, heart problems.