written by: Nichole Bolton
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 11/16/2010
The health problems experienced by long term bulimics worsen as the years progress and may even lead to death of the individual.
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Bulimia is an eating disorder that involves a cycle of restricting calories, binging on food and then purging. Long term bulimics struggle with a number of serious health problems, including throat damage, stomach damage, tooth damage, dehydration, depression and in some cases, death.
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Damage to the Throat
Long term bulimics often experience damage to the throat. This is caused by stomach acid in vomit irritating the oesophagus, leading to inflammation and ulcers. Swallowing tends to be extremely painful for people with bulimia. Another very serious side effect of frequent vomiting is a rupture of the oesophagus, which is often fatal. Signs of throat damage include pain, swelling and vomiting blood.
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Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
Bulimia can cause a loss of fluids through vomiting and laxative abuse, leading to severe dehydration. Dehydration can lead to a number of serious problems, including kidney failure, seizures, heart failure and brain damage. A person who is dehydrated may also struggle with an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are essential for healthy bones, muscle, nerve, kidney and heart function. An imbalance of electrolytes can quickly lead to organ failure and even death.
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Damage to the Teeth
Tooth damage is another common health problem experienced by long term bulimics. Because of the amount of stomach acid that comes into contact with the teeth during purging, bulimia causes wearing of the tooth enamel. This can lead to cavities, tooth sensitivities, poor appearance of teeth, tooth decay and in some cases teeth may need to be removed.
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Damage to the Digestive System
Damage to the digestive system is a serious long term effect of bulimia. Bulimia can lead to eroding of the stomach's lining, leading to a peptic ulcer. Signs of an ulcer include vomiting blood, blood in the stool and severe chest or stomach pain that becomes worse after eating. Ulcers can be very painful and should be treated immediately by a doctor.
Many long term bulimics experience a loss of sensation in the stomach, making it impossible to tell when they are full. This is due to damage of the receptors that tell the brain when the stomach has had enough food. This can lead to a difficult recovery from bulimia, as patients are more likely to eat past the point of discomfort.
Laxative dependency is another common problem faced by long term bulimics. As bulimics abuse laxatives to rid the body of food as quickly as possible, they lose the ability to digest food properly. Long term bulimics may have a hard time passing stools without laxatives after abusing them for a long period of time. This can lead to bloating, constipation and abdominal pain.
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Depression is a serious long term side effect of bulimia. Depression can be caused by a number of physiological factors such as hormone and vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Poor body image can contribute to depression in many people. The behaviors of bulimic people also lead to depression. These behaviors are binging and purging, living an isolated lifestyle and restricting calories. Bulimic people who try to stop and fail may become more depressed with their lives and their eating disorder. Depression is a serious side effect, as it can lead to suicide.
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Death is a serious possibility for anyone struggling with an eating disorder like bulimia. Death can be a caused by a number of complications such as electrolyte imbalances, rupture of the oesophagus, kidney failure, heart failure, brain damage, seizures, malnutrition and depression.
Anyone who is struggling from bulimia should seek help quickly to begin recovery.
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Something Fishy: Dangers and Effects of an Eating Disorder - http://www.something-fishy.org/dangers/dangers.php
The Eating Problems Service: Consequences of Eating Disorders - http://www.eatingproblems.org/epseffect.html
Anorexia Reflections: Long Term Effects of Bulimia - http://www.anorexia-reflections.com/long-term-effects-of-bulimia.html