Potential Medical Complications of Eating Disorders
In addition to being psychologically painful disorders, it is important to note that anorexia and bulimia are two of the most potentially fatal psychiatric disorders. If you think you might have an eating disorder, please get a psychological and medical evaluation. Both are available to Barnard students (please see virtual brochure on treatment resources at Barnard).
Potential Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Lanugo (excessive body hair)
- Stunted growth
- Atrophy of the optic nerve, which can cause blindness
- Retinal degeneration
- Brain abnormalities
- Congestive heart failure
- Electrolyte imbalance, which can produce life-threatening consequences
It has been estimated that up to 20% of anorectics die of a complication related to the disorder.
Potential Medical Complications of Bulimia Nervosa:
- Heart damage
- Menstrual abnormalities
- Kidney failure
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Gastric rupture, which is rare; when it does occur, it has a mortality rate that exceeds 80%
- Electrolyte imbalances, which can produce life-threatening consequences
- Hair loss
- Epileptic seizures
- Mucosal ulcers
Although the mortality rates of bulimia are not yet known, some clinicians believe that they may be as high as those for anorexia.
Medical Risks of Binge-Eating Disorder:
Modest deviations in weight have only a small effect on life expectancy. Research suggests that weight fluctuations (which can result from binge-eating disorder, particularly when accompanied by periods of restriction) are more harmful to a person’s health than a stable, above-average weight.