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Medical Complications

Without treatment, the physical complications that result from eating disorders can be life-threatening. Here is a list of possible medical complications that could arise from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa or food addiction.

Dental and Mouth:

  • Oral sensitivity
  • Bleeding gums
  • Eroded enamel
  • Altered bite
  • Lost teeth
  • Contusions or lacerations of the oral cavity from the use of items to induce emesis
  • Pyorrhea
  • Highly Sensitive teeth resulting from gingival deterioration
  • An increase in dental caries

Chemistry

  • Hypochloremic metabolic alkalosis
  • Uric acid elevated
  • Low blood glucose
  • Elevated or depressed cholesterol
  • Carotene is elevated
  • Deficiencies of trace minerals

Cardiovascular

  • Myocardiopathy and CHF (especially with use of ipecac)
  • Hypovolemia
  • Electrocardiogram abnormalities
  • Slow pulse
  • Low blood pressure

Dermatalogic

  • Dry skin
  • Acrocyanosis
  • Scars (such as on knuckles due to inducing emesis, vomiting)
  • Loss of subcutaneous tissues and fat in general
  • Fine lanugo hair (form of hair growth associated with malnutrition)

Endocrine

  • T-3 deficiency (leads to bradycardia, dry skin, cold intolerance, sluggish reflexes hypercarotenemia, and several hair abnormalities)
  • Addison’s disease or hyperaldosteronism
  • The inability to concentrate urine normally and partial diabetes insipidus condition 
  • Symptoms of irregular calcium levels
  • Hypogonadism

Gastrointestinal:

  • Abdominal pain, bloating, and fullness
  • Fatty infiltration of the liver
  • Esophagitis
  • Intestinal injury
  • Esophageal perforations and lacerations (Mallory-Weiss Syndrome)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hypoproteinemia, hypoalbuminemia and calcium deficiency caused by malabsorption of nutrients
  • Pancreatitis
  • Exacerbation of hemorrhoids
  • Ulceration of the bowel
  • Gastric ulceration
  • Gastritis
  • Melanosis coli

Fluid and Electrolyte Abnormalities:

  • Skeletal muscle weakness
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Abnormal gastrointestinal motility
  • Electrolyte Imbalance
  • Depletion of sodium (hyponatremia)
  • Edema
  • Dehydration
  • Emotional lability and lassitude
  • Potassium increase due to diuretic abuse causing cardiac abnormalities
  • Hyponatremia
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Cramps
  • Paresthesia
  • Polyuria and oliguria
  • Nocturia
  • CNS abnormalities
  • Constipation
  • Effects resulting from metabolic alkalosis, chloride and potassium deficiencies
  • Cardial abnormalities (irregular rhythms, conduction abnormalities, and sudden death)

Gynecologic:

  • Breast atrophy
  • Atrophic vaginitis and loss of sexual appetite
  • Amenorrhea
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Infertility

Hematologic Abnormalities:

  • Bone marrow may be deficient or hypocellular
  • Anemia
  • Leukopernia
  • Thrombocytopenia

Ophthalmologic:

  • Transient blurred vision
  • Dark circles, puffiness under the eyes

Pulmonary:

  • Aspiration pneumonia

Renal:

  • Prerenal and renal azotemia due to diminished renal pertusion and chronic dehydration
  • Kidney failure
  • Predisposition to renal stones
  • Tubular and collecting system abnormalities due to electrolyte abnormality

Miscellaneous:

  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Swelling of the bilateral parotid gland