Health Consequences of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a serious problem that affects a person’s entire self-image. But eating disorders can also have a serious effect on a person’s health. Many times, these health consequences can result in life threatening conditions.

Any one who is suffering from an eating disorder should seek immediate care from a health professional. Here are the most common health consequences that may develop as a result of an eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder in which a person denies their body food and nutrients. Clearly, this pattern of self-starvation can wreak havoc with a person’s health. When a person stops eating, the body becomes weak and all the natural processes begin to slow down in an effort to conserve energy. When this goes on for an extended period of time, several serious health complications may result.

The most serious health consequences include heart problems, specifically a slow heart rate and lowered blood pressure that indicate change or even damage to the heart muscle. Overall muscle loss, weakness, and reduction in bone density (osteoporosis) become possible. Kidney failure becomes possible if the body becomes dehydrated enough.

A person with anorexia nervosa may manifest physical symptoms including dry hair, dull skin, and hair loss. Lanugo, the growth of fine hair all over the body, may also result.

Lanugo is the body’s response to the body’s attempt to keep the body at a steady temperature. The anorexia patient may also become susceptible to fatigue, fainting spells, and consistent feelings of allover weakness.


Bulimia is another serious eating disorder in which the patient engages in a cycle of binge and purge sessions. Bulimia can be more difficult to detect than anorexia because the patient often appears to eat normally and usually maintains a normal weight.

But bulimia poses several health risks. The recurrence of these binge and purge cycles may cause the body to react with chemical imbalances and electrolyte imbalance that can inflict serious damage to the heart and other vital organs.

Specific health risks of bulimia include heart problems, including irregular heartbeats and even possible heart failure. Bulimia patients often suffer from dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium. This in turn causes severe electrolyte imbalance in many cases. Gastric rupture and other serious digestive problems can arise from constant binging.

Rupture and inflammation of the esophagus can also result from repeated vomiting. Dental problems include serious tooth decay is also common due to damage from stomach acids from frequent vomiting. Bulimia patients often also suffer from irregular bowel movements and constipation.

Binge Eating Disorder

This eating disorder affects those who cannot control the amount and types of food that they eat. Often, a person with binge eating disorder will engage in eating binges, consuming a day’s worth of calories in a matter of a few hours.

People with binge eating disorder often suffer from high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure. These patients are at a much greater risk for clinical obesity, developing diabetes, heart disease, and gallbladder disease.