A long term eating disorder, whether it be bulimia or anorexia, can play havoc with a person’s body. Here are only five ways an eating disorder can affect the body.
Electrolytes are chemicals that are necessary for many physical processes. Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include irregular heartbeat, twitching, changes in blood pressure, numbness, fatigue and weakness, seizures, mental confusion and muscle spasms.
In girls, anorexia or bulimia can depress their weight to the point where they no longer have menstrual periods. To be diagnosed with amenorrhea, the patient must not have had a period in three to six months. Some girls suffer a growth of body hair while others suffer hair loss. Headaches may be another symptom that accompanies amenorrhea.
This is an inflammation of the esophagus caused by the constant vomiting of bulimia. The signs include swallowing that’s difficult or painful, sore throat, a bad taste in the mouth, hoarseness, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores and bad breath.
Like esophagitis, erosion of the enamel of the teeth can be caused by the vomiting that accompanies bulimia. The acid in the contents of the stomach start to eat away at the enamel, even as the enamel is the hardest substance in the body. The teeth become very sensitive to heat and cold and hurt when exposed to sugary foods. If not treated, the erosion of tooth enamel can lead to cavities and the pulp of the tooth becoming infected.
The lack of nutrition can result in types of anemia. One type of anemia that can afflict a person with an eating disorder is iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms are fatigue and weakness, pale skin, fingernails and eyes, general discomfort, sensitivity to cold, dizziness, shortness of breath and strange sensations in the legs.
Pernicious anemia is the result of a deficiency of vitamin B12. The symptoms of pernicious anemia may take a long time to develop, but when they occur they include weakness in the arms and legs, a bright red, sore tongue, numbness and tingling in the extremities, clumsiness, constipation or diarrhea, bleeding gums and mouth ulcers.
Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated, though treating them is challenging. It includes not only counseling for the patient, but for their family. If their weight is extremely low or if they're suffering a life-threatening condition, the patient may need to be hospitalized.
About the Author: Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball. If you have an eating disorder, Lizzie recommends that you get help from an institution such as Reasons Eating Disorder Center.