Patient Education

Health Library

Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Anorexia Complications

Skip to the navigation

Topic Overview

Many people who have anorexia nervosa will eventually develop symptoms (binge-purge behaviors) of another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa.

Long-term or severe anorexia also can cause serious medical complications, such as:footnote 1

  • Osteoporosis, which results from a lack of calcium in the diet as well as too much cortisol and too little estrogen in the body. The teenage years are critical bone-building years.
  • Joint injuries, from too much exercise.
  • Fractures, which are common in female athletes who have an eating disorder and also have osteoporosis and irregular menstrual cycles (known as the female athlete triad).
  • Anemia.
  • Kidney function problems, often caused by ongoing dehydration or misuse of laxatives.
  • Heart problems, such as a slow or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Cavities or tooth decay.

If left untreated, many of these conditions can lead to death. Some people may eventually die from complications of malnutrition or from suicide. But restoring healthy eating habits and good nutrition may reverse many of the complications of anorexia.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Sigel EJ (2012). Eating disorders. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 167-178. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry

Current as ofMay 3, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.