Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa

Eating Disorders wreak havoc on the sufferer’s physical health. These complications are compounded when the sufferer is a child and still growing. The physical complications associated with teenage Eating Disorders have far reaching consequences. Food is the fuel that the body uses to aid in growth as well as physical and mental functioning. Any significant reduction in fuel to the body can cause significant impairment and sometimes permanent damage. Depending on the age of onset, growth and maturation may be seriously interrupted. This page contains a list of some but not all complications that may arise for teens with Anorexia Nervosa.

List of Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa in Teenagers

  • Interruption, delay or cessation of puberty:Commencement of puberty is dependent upon the release of hormones from the pituitary gland. When food intake is restricted, the natural process that initiates and sustains things such as menstruation will be interrupted. The body does not begin puberty or discontinues it in an attempt to conserve energy.
  • Growth and height impairments:Food plays a vital role in height and physical growth. Without food, growth will slow and the child may not reach their full height and physical development may slow down or stop completely.
  • Bone damage or depletion:Osteoporosis or osteopenia can occur as a result of Anorexia Nervosa. When food intake is restricted, the nutrients that the body uses to maintain bone health are lacking and bone loss and degenerative bone conditions result. Accumulation of bone matter is highest during adolescence and teenage Anorexia Nervosa can cause life long bone health problems.
  • Cosmetic Complications:Issues such as dry skin (from lack of fluids), grayish colored skin, thin hair, hair loss, dark circles under the eyes, halitosis (bad breath) and abdominal extension can be directly traced to the behaviors associated with Anorexia Nervosa.
  • Major muscle damage:Major muscles including the heart, the brain and the liver are significantly impaired by a restricted food intake. When food is withheld the heart experiences a great deal of stress, causing it to produce arrhythmias and to eventually stop beating. The brain is also dependent upon food to maintain its vitality and basic processes. When food is withheld the brain responds by shrinking and slowing its responses. The liver responds to food deprivation by developing hepatic steatosis, more commonly known as “fatty liver” and is characteristic of the malnutrition that accompanies a child who has not been properly fed and lacks key nutrients.
  • Additional Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa:There are many other medical complications that can arise from Anorexia Nervosa when it is left untreated. These include low blood pressure, propensity to feeling cold, dizziness, fainting, fine hair growth on the lower portion of the body, headaches, nausea and anxiety attacks.

Once consistent nutritious food intake is resumed, most of the medical complications associated with Anorexia Nervosa can be reduced and even reversed. However, extended food deprivation can ultimately be deadly.

If you would like more information or are ready to get help for you or your loved one, please call us at 1-888-948-9998. An admissions coordinator will work closely with you to help you find hope and healing.