Bulimia, Anorexia, and Binge Eating: Associated Medical Complications

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man eating straight out of the fridge

Eating disorders are serious mental health illnesses that include bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. Each of them has their own set of symptoms with the potential to damage the body’s organs in the long term.

Fortunately, immediate and appropriate treatments for disorders like bulimia can encourage recovery and reduce the risk of medical complications.

Such issues include:

Complications Surrounding Bulimia

Individuals who suffer from bulimia engage in regular binging sessions where they may consume thousands of calories in a single sitting. They then vomit or use diuretics or laxatives to purge out the food. They activate a binge and purge cycle as a way to establish control over their body and prevent weight gain. This cycle may occur a few times a week or a few times a day in severe cases. Bulimic individuals are more often overweight than underweight.

Medical Issues

If this disorder is left untreated, the individual may experience major medical complications as a result of regular and frequent vomiting. Over time, vomiting allows stomach acids to degrade the teeth’s enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Vomiting can also create ulcers or lead to gastro-esophageal reflux disease. The esophagus may turn raw and inflamed or ruptured with extreme and forceful vomiting. In rare situations, an over-stretched stomach will cause gastric rupture as the stomach’s contents spill into the abdominal cavity.

Additional medical issues arise out of medication abuse. For instance, improper and prolonged use can damage the kidneys and cause dehydration. Laxative abuse can lead to gastrointestinal issues like irregularity and constipation. Drugs meant to induce vomiting can have toxic effects, weakening the heart muscle and potentially damaging the left ventricle.

Vomiting and drug abuse can create electrolyte imbalances that affect heart rate and organ function. Without appropriate treatment, bulimia increases the risk of heart and kidney failure.

woman binge eating pizza on toilet

Complications Surrounding Anorexia

Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa may engage in behavior to prevent weight gain or to induce weight loss. They may reduce their food intake severely or participate in strict and extreme exercise regimens.

An individual who eats too little will experience drastic weight loss, major nutritional deficits, and denial of important nutrients. The body does not receive adequate energy from food because of extreme calorie restrictions. This means bodily functions slow down as a way for the body to conserve limited energy. Individuals often have low heart rate, low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and an increased risk for heart failure. The changes in the endocrine system mean women may stop menstruating and the body may be unable to regulate and maintain normal temperature.

Medical Issues

In addition to damages to the cardiovascular and endocrine systems, anorexia can decrease bone density from a lack of vitamin D and calcium. In turn, this results in premature osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fractures. Anorexia may also cause hematological issues and a low white blood cell count. This can increase the risk of other types of infections.

Complications Surrounding Binge Eating Disorder

Like bulimic individuals, those suffering from binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food in one sitting. However, they do not purge or vomit out the food. Individuals with this disorder are often obese because of these large consumptions of fat and carbohydrates.

Medical Issues

The medical issues surrounding binge eating disorder are similar to those experienced by the clinically obese. They are at increased risk of cardiovascular problems, gallbladder disease, and diabetes.

Appropriate and prompt treatments in a qualified treatment facility can reduce the symptoms and increasing severity of eating disorders. They decrease the likelihood that medical complications arise and start the individual on the path to recovery.

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