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Anorexia Nervosa Health Center

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Anorexia Complications - Topic Overview

Almost half of people who have anorexia nervosa will eventually develop symptoms (binge-purge behaviors) of another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa.1

Long-term or severe anorexia also can cause serious medical complications, such as: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).
  • Anemia.
  • 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.3 But restoring healthy eating habits and good nutrition may reverse many of the complications of anorexia.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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