Evidence-Based Comprehensive Psychological, Nutritional and Medical Care

Anorexia Health Risks and Medical Complications

There are a number of potential complications and health risks of anorexia, which can commonly occur in individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa. These medical complications include minor side effects such as fatigue or lack of energy as well as major ongoing health problems or even death. Generally, the health risks of anorexia become more severe as the disorder progresses. Therefore, individuals suffering from anorexia should be treated as soon as possible to reduce the risk for serious long term complications.

The following are some of the less severe or minor health risks of anorexia that are commonly encountered in individuals suffering from this eating disorder.

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Skin problems
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Dehydration
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach pains
  • Decreased metabolic rate
  • Edema (water retention)
  • Growth or Lanugo (fine downy hair)
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
  • Low testosterone in males
  • Irregular menses

Additionally, there are also some more severe health risks of anorexia that can occur especially if anorexia is left untreated for a longer period of time. Some of these health conditions can occur when someone is severely underweight; however, other serious conditions can occur as a result of some of the seemingly less severe health risks of anorexia. Several more severe medical complications for anorexia include:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anemia
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Cathartic colon from laxative abuse
  • Low potassium, the most common cause of nocturnal cardiac arrest
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

If a person suffering from an eating disorder becomes extremely malnourished, the medical complications and health risks of anorexia can affect nearly every organ in the body. In severe cases, vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys can sustain damage. This damage may be permanent and irreversible even when the anorexia is under control.

Preventing Health Risks of Anorexia

The best way to prevent any health risks of anorexia is to receive eating disorder treatment as soon as possible. If you believe that you may be suffering from anorexia or any other eating disorder, it is important that you call a doctor or specialized eating disorder treatment center, like McCallum Place, to begin treatment as soon as possible. If you feel that a loved one is showing anorexia signs, you should talk with that person and urge them to begin treatment. The earlier anorexia treatment is initiated and a patient begins the eating disorder recovery process, the less likely it is that they will suffer from any of the severe health risks of anorexia.

Marks of Quality Care
  • Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
  • Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa
  • International Association Of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • RenewED, Eating Disorders Support
  • Washington University in St. Louis

As painful as it is to be here and do what they’re asking, I don’t think I’d be able to do it without the McCallum Place support. You don’t have to know how to fix it, just be willing to listen and try their suggestions.

– A Former Resident