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Long-term or severe anorexia also can cause serious medical complications, such as:footnote 2
- 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).
- Kidney function problems, often caused by ongoing dehydration or abuse 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. Up to 8 out of 100 people who have anorexia will eventually die from complications of malnutrition or from suicide.footnote 3 But restoring healthy eating habits and good nutrition may reverse many of the complications of anorexia.
- Agras WS (2008). The eating disorders. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 13, chap. 9. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
- 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.
- Franko DL, et al. (2013). A longitudinal investigation of mortality in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online August 1, 2013 (doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12070868).
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
Current as ofNovember 14, 2014
Current as of: November 14, 2014