Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. Eating disorders are very complex real and devastating conditions that may have serious consequences for heath productivity and relationships with others. It is important for individuals with eating disorders to seek professional help. The earlier an individual with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.
In anorexia nervosa's cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. The body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical conditions including:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density, which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
- Growth of a downy layer of the hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face in an effort to keep the body warm.
The recurrent binge and purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart as well as other major organ functions. Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possible heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalances are caused by dehydration and the loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of the purging behaviors.
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from ongoing vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.