Eating Disorders Can Be Devastating

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 18, 1996 | Go to article overview

Eating Disorders Can Be Devastating


Byline: Dianna Hubay

Consequences, causes and treatment associated with eating disorders.

Consequences: The medical complications of eating disorders can be great. In anorexia, starvation damages vital organs such as the heart or brain. To protect itself from damage, the body shifts into low gear reserving its resources; the menstrual flow can stop, blood pressure drops, breathing slows, as does thyroid functioning. The hair and nails become brittle, skin yellows and becomes covered with a soft fur-like hair called lanugo. Additionally, thirst and urination may increase. Constipation results from dehydration, and lower body temperature from a decrease in body fat.

Other complications can be anemia, swollen joints, light-headedness, brittle bones, irregular heart beats and heart failure. In extreme cases, the brain may shrink and cause personality changes.

In bulimia, on-going and consistent binge-purge cycles also can severely damage the body, even in those people who manage to maintain more or less a normal amount of weight for their frame. Some of the consequences of bulimic behavior may be stomach rupture, heart failure, disfigurement of the tooth enamel, scarring of the back of the hands and fingers from insertion in the throat to induce vomiting.

Additionally, the esophagus can become inflamed and the glands near the cheeks become swollen, menstrual periods become irregular and sexual drive is diminished.

Those who suffer with a binge eating disorder are usually obese and thus struggle with serious medical problems associated with overweight. Such medical problems as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, higher risk of gallbladder disease, heart disease, and several types of cancer are frequently associated this disorder.

Along with the medical difficulties, research from the National Institute of Mental Health indicates a high incidence of other mental illnesses such as clinical depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, personality and substance abuse disorders. Many of those affected by bulimia and anorexia are at great risk for suicide. …

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