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Anorexia Complications

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Topic Overview

Many people who have anorexia nervosa will eventually develop symptoms (binge-purge behaviors) of another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa.

Long-term or severe anorexia also can cause serious medical complications, such as:footnote 1

  • Osteoporosis, which results from a lack of calcium in the diet as well as too much cortisol and too little estrogen in the body. The teenage years are critical bone-building years.
  • Joint injuries, from too much exercise.
  • Fractures, which are common in female athletes who have an eating disorder and also have osteoporosis and irregular menstrual cycles (known as the female athlete triad).
  • Anemia.
  • Kidney function problems, often caused by ongoing dehydration or misuse of laxatives.
  • Heart problems, such as a slow or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Cavities or tooth decay.

If left untreated, many of these conditions can lead to death. Some people may eventually die from complications of malnutrition or from suicide. But restoring healthy eating habits and good nutrition may reverse many of the complications of anorexia.

Related Information



  1. Sigel EJ (2012). Eating disorders. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 167-178. New York: McGraw-Hill.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerW. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry

Current as ofMay 3, 2017

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