Medical Impact of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that significantly affect the physical health of a person. The consequences are severe complications like seizures, heart failure, coma, and in some cases, even death. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate and is a deadly mental health condition. Individuals diagnosed with eating disorders are put under medical and psychological care.

Medical complications of Anorexia Nervosa

Malnutrition is the first thing that is looked into in cases of anorexia nervosa. The person is preoccupied with weight loss and thinness, which leads to excessive starvation. Many clients with anorexia nervosa disorder look extremely sick. Anorexia nervosa affects the whole body.

  • Hair and nails are thin and brittle.
  • The skin becomes very dry.
  • Downy hair grows on their face, neck, arms, back, and legs.
  • Yellowish tinge on their skin, especially their palms and hands.
  • They find it difficult to cope with the cold temperature.
  • Brain and Nerves: Their thinking capacity is distorted; fear of gaining weight; sadness; moodiness; irritability; bad memory; fainting; and chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • Heart: low blood pressure due to electrolyte imbalance, which leads to an irregular heartbeat, which is a danger to life as it can cause heart failure and death.
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis as bone density is reduced.
  • Using laxatives to induce diarrhea makes the person feel thinner and removes calories from the body. Consumption of laxatives can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, kidney disease, kidney damage, and failure.
  • Abuse of laxatives damages the bowel and gastrointestinal tract, which can make the intestines bloated and constipated.
  • Anemia and other blood-related problems.
  • Dangerously low glucose level which can cause fainting, dizzy, sweating, headache, irritability, and shaking. In some cases it can cause loss of coordination, slurred speech, blurred vision, confusion, seizure, and coma which is life threatening.
Medical complications of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is said to be less lethal than anorexia nervosa; however, there is a high mortality rate and medical concerns. Purging is a serious issue that raises medical concerns.

  • Purging can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can affect the heart and kidney functions.
  • Decrease the level of potassium, which can cause heart failure.
  • Calluses on their hands as they use the fingers to stick inside their throat to make themselves vomit.
  • Tears to the throat can occur because of the use of the finger or objects like a toothbrush or spoon to induce vomiting.
  • The stomach is acidic.
  • Teeth are damaged because of repeated vomiting and brushing after vomiting.
  • Mouth ulcer’
  • Dental cavity
  • A small red dot around the eyes is caused by the pressure of throwing up.
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Puff cheeks
  • Behaviors like restricting, vomiting, exercising, and laxative abuse causes phosphorus deficiency in the body which can cause heart attack, muscle pain, and death.

Eating disorders have devastating effects on the brain and body. However, it is never too late to seek treatment. It is important to understand the danger and harm that are caused by pathology in eating behaviors. The treatment initially focuses on the medical aspects of making the individual gain a healthy weight and increase nutrition in their body, then the psychological aspects are looked into to understand the cause and develop an intervention plan that is tailored for the individual. The treatment is long-term and takes time for the patient to recover from eating disorders.




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