Medical Doctors and Anorexia

Medical Doctors and Anorexia: Why is seeing a medical doctor so important for clients with the diagnosis of  Anorexia Nervosa?  Seeing a medical doctor is extremely important in the treatment of a person with this disorder because of the serious medical complications associated with anorexia nervosa.   Physical effects of the illness include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Changes in skin and hair; Skin can become dry and flaky.  Skin tone can become yellow or orange.  Hair can become thinner and more brittle.  Hair loss is common.  Downy black hair can develop on the face and body.
  • Anemia: A deficiency in the production of Red blood cells.
  • Shock:  Increased heart rate, sweating, light headedness, and pale complexion… (This is often fatal.  Call 911 or be taken to the closest ER immediately if you or a loved one has these symptoms)…
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties including delayed stomach emptying, constipation and bloating…
  • Interrupted development: Due to the affects of malnutrition there is significant risk of s growth retardation, pubertal interruption, and peak bone mass reduction in adolescent girls with Anorexia….
  • Hypothalamic Hypogonadism (the loss of sex hormones) causes the loss of menses and fertility problems.  Girls who are Anorexic in pre teen or early teen years miss crucial stages of breast development.  Research shows that even females who have recovered from Anorexia tend to have a higher rate of miscarriage during their childbearing years. Their growth (height) is often stunted.
  • Heart problems:  Most deaths from eating disorders are a result of heart problems. When a person is not consuming enough calories, the body begins to burn muscle to provide fuel.  The heart is a muscle.   As anorexia progresses the heart muscles can become smaller and weaker.  Blood pressure can drop (Hypotension).  This is associated with poor circulation, cold hands and feet, and slow healing of cuts.  The pulse can become slow, and heart rate can begin to beat too slowly or too quickly.  Most heart related mortality from Anorexia is caused by an elevated heart rate.

Mental health therapists, nutritionists, medical doctors and anorexia are part of the treatment team required to treat the person who is struggling to overcome this disease.  Anorexia left untreated can cause irreparable damage, including death.