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Definitions and Medical Complications

Anorexia Nervosa

Characterized by undereating, fear of gaining weight, and obsessions with dieting and thin-ness.
Hormonal Changes: Some hormone levels drop. Menstruation becomes irregular or stops completely. In males, impotence may develop.
Premature Bone Loss: Susceptibility to stress fractures and osteoporosis.
Organ Damage: Possible kidney and heart failure.
Also: Abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure, hair loss, dry skin, cold/blue hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, insomnia, constipation.

Bulimia

Characterized by recurrent episodes of bingeing and purging, and feelings of loss of control and shame. Vomiting causes these medical problems:
Gastrointestinal Problems: Irritation of esophagus, stomach, and throat; enlarged salivary glands.
Damaged Teeth: Gastric acids erode enamel.
Lung Irritation: At risk for aspiration while vomiting; food particles may lodge in lungs.
Chronic Loss of Body Fluids: Depletes electrolytes resulting in muscle spasms, weakness, irregular heartbeat, kidney disease, and heart failure.

Binge-Eating Disorder

Characterized by recurrent episodes of bingeing without purging. Bingeing causes these medical problems:
Gastrointestinal Problems: Gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Weight Gain: Over time can lead to weight gain. Being overweight increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

Last Updated: 10/2/08