Side-effects of Anorexia Nervosa
Nowadays a completely effective treatment program for anorexia nervosa not exist and many patients never achieve a normal weight. Perfectionism and a drive for thinness, which are a risk for recurrence of the eating disorder, are present to many people with anorexia. One study shown that recovery took between four and nearly seven years.
The death rates ranging from 4% to 25% have been reported to the anorexic patients. The risk for early death is higher in the people with the following conditions or characteristics: being younger, having bulimia anorexia, being severely low in weight at the time of treatment, being sick for more than six years, having been previously obese,personality disorders, a dysfunctional marriage and being male.
In anorexia suicide is often present. From this point of view studies shown that suicide rates occurred in 1.4% of women with anorexia. At people with severe anorexia the most common medical cause of death is heart disease. The following effects of anorexia on the heart are: dangerous heart rhythms, including slow rhythms known as bradycardia which can be present even in teenagers with anorexia, blood flow is reduced, blood pressure may drop, heart muscles starve, losing size and cholesterol levels tend to rise.
Abnormalities in the balance of minerals, like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, which are normally dissolved in the body’s fluid can lead to the heart problems. Electrolyte imbalance is produced by the reduction of fluid and mineral levels which occur in anorexia due to dehydration and starvation. Electric currents necessary for a normal heart beat are maintained by electrolytes of calcium and potassium. When anorexia is compounded by bulimia and the use of ipecac, a drug that causes vomiting heart problems are a risk.
In anorexia appear hormonal effects that can have severe health consequences: decrease of reproductive hormones, thyroid hormones, growth hormones and increase of stress hormones. Long-term, irregular or absent menstruation (amenorrhea) is the result of many of these hormonal abnormalities in women. These can appear early in anorexia and over time causes infertility and bone loss. To cause amenorrhea is not sufficient only low weight. A stronger role in hormonal disturbance is plaid by extreme fasting and purging behaviors.
Estrogen levels are usually restored and periods resume after treatment and weight increase. Normal menstruation never returns in 25% of such patients in severe anorexia even after treatment. There is a higher risk for miscarriage, cesarean section, and for having an infant with low birth weight or birth defects if a woman with anorexia becomes pregnant before regaining normal weight. Also there is a higher risk for post partum depression. Lower chances for success are present to women with anorexia who seek fertility treatments.
A common result of low estrogen levels in women with anorexia is loss of bone minerals (osteopenia) and loss of bone density (osteoporosis). In such women bone loss may be worsened by low calcium levels and by higher levels of stress hormones. During their critical growing period up to two-thirds of children and adolescent girls with anorexia fail to develop strong bones. An even higher risk for bone loss is present to women with anorexia. Unfortunately weight gain does not restore bone. If the eating disorder persists a long period the bone loss will be permanent.
The brain and other parts of the body can be affected by nerve damages that occur to people with severe anorexia. The following nerve-related conditions are: seizures, disordered thinking and numbness or odd nerve sensations in the hands or feet (a condition called peripheral neuropathy). During anorexic states brains scans indicate that parts of the brain undergo structural changes and abnormal activity. After weight gain some of these changes return to normal, but some damage may be permanent. The extent of the neurologic problems is unclear.
A common result of anorexia and starvation is anemia. Pernicious anemia is a serious blood problem and it is caused by severely low levels of vitamin B12. Pancytopenia is a life-threatening condition which occur if anorexia becomes extreme and the bone marrow dramatically reduces its production of blood cells. Other very common problems in people with anorexia are bloating and constipation. The organs simply fail in very late anorexia. In this case levels of liver enzymes, which require immediate administration of calories is the main signal.
In young people with type 1 diabetes eating disorders are very serious. More dangerous in this group of patients are the complications of anorexia that affect all patients. A danger in anyone with anorexia is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, but it is a dangerous risk in those with diabetes. Retinopathy, damage to the retina in the eye, which can lead to blindness is present to 85% of young women with diabetes and eating disorders. Some studies shown that between 12% and 18% of people who are anorexic also abuse alcohol or drugs.
Nowadays many researchers are working to find better methods for helping people with anorexia.
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