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What Effects Can Anorexia Have on the Body?

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/23/2010

What effects can anorexia have on the body is a question that many with eating disorders may ask. While anorexia is treatable, the duration and intensity of the eating disorder behaviors can make a difference on the physiological effects of the body.

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    What Effects can Anorexia Have on the Body?

    People looking for answers may ask, "What effects can anorexia have on the body?"

    The duration and intensity of the anorexic behaviors can make a difference as to the physiological effects of the body. In patients who are severe anorexics, the body may suffer more ill effects than those who have not been long term anorexics or not as stringent in their starving behaviors.

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    First Physical Signs of Anorexia

    When the body notices the severe calorie shortage that anorexics cause because of food restriction, it goes into starvation mode. The body starts to feed off of itself to get the nutrients it needs to produce energy. The body's productivity slows down. It is when the body is kept at this stage that health issues start to show up and, if kept at this stage over a long term, serious or critical health conditions arise.

    Some of the early physical signs of anorexia may be a delay or loss of menstrual periods, a general lack of energy, and a feeling of weakness. The body may feel cold or chilled when everyone else is warm. The skin may become dry and turn a yellowish color. it may bruise easily. Hair loss is common and so is fingernail breakage or softness.

    There could be abdominal discomfort and constipation may develop. Restlessness, lack of focus, and insomnia are also common effects of anorexia.

    Headaches, fainting spells, and a feeling of dizziness may happen. Breathing rates and changes in the pulse and blood pressure can also occur.

    Another physical sign of this type of eating disorder is a fine hair growth over the face and the body called lanugo.

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    Anorexia Effects if Left Untreated

    If the body stays in starvation mode for a period of time, if left untreated, even more serious physiological effects of the body occur in anorexics. Here are some of the physical effects that may ensue if treatment is postponed.

    If the body doesn't get enough oxygen rich blood, anemia develops. One of the results of anemia is a feeling of always being tired, of having no energy. Severe anemia can actually damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Extreme anemia may, if left untreated over a period of time, even cause death.

    Bones may become brittle leading to breakage and injury. Because of the lack of proper nutrition, the body heals very slowly. Loss of bone mass may also lead to osteoporosis. Muscles may become weak and joints may become swollen.

    Kidney stones and kidney failure may occur.

    The heart can be affected. An anorexic may develop an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, and, in some cases, cardiac arrest. Electrolyte imbalances caused by poor nutrition can factor in here.

    There may be damage done to the teeth, esophagus, and or stomach lining. Bladder and anal incontinence can develop due to weak muscles because of the poor nutrition.

    Infertility and stunted growth, because of hormone imbalances, may be conditions that develop if the anorexia is left untreated.

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    Anorexia can cause too many serious health effects to not seek out treatment. The next time you hear someone ask, "What effects can anorexia have on the body?" set them straight and give them the facts.

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    References

    Help Guide.org - Anorexia Nervosa: What effects can anorexia have on the body: http://helpguide.org/mental/anorexia_signs_symptoms_causes_treatment.htm

    Kids Health.org - Effects of Eating Disorders: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/eat_disorder.html#

    Epigee.org - Complications Associated with Anorexia: http://www.epigee.org/mental_health/anorexia.html