Medical Consequences and Concerns
This guide helps you to know the serious
health concerns linked to eating disorders.
The way a person looks on the outside does
not tell the whole story. A person with an
eating disorder may have serious medical
Are real, treatable, medical illnesses
Are often present along with
depression, drug or alcohol abuse or
Can lead to death, if not treated
Someone who restricts their eating may
A slower metabolic rate
Dry, hard bowel movements, along
with trouble passing stools
Low blood pressure and slow pulse
Dizziness or fainting
Irregular menstrual periods - leading
to thinning of the bones
(osteoporosis) and spontaneous
Decreased kidney function with an
increased risk of kidney stones
Coarse, dry hair or hair loss
More symptoms of depression and
risk of suicide
Loss of mass in muscles and vital
Obsession with food and binge
Hoarding and stealing
People who binge may have:
Excess weight gain
Gross swelling of the stomach with
the chance of rupture
Swelling of feet, legs and hands
Each one of these can lead to health
problems. When a person has more than one
of these behaviors, their risk goes up for
heart problems and sudden death.
Vomiting or purging may cause:
Dizziness and/or fainting
Low blood potassium levels (which
will cause muscle weakness and
sudden death, heart failure, anxiety
Increased tooth decay
Sore throats, mouth sores, or blood
Enlarged salivary glands
Ipecac to induce vomiting is very harmful.
It is not metabolized by the body and can
result in heart muscle damage and toxicity to
Laxatives do not reduce the calories
absorbed by the body by very much. Instead,
they cause severe health risks such as:
Rectal bleeding, rectal fissures or
Dehydration, dizziness and/or
Low potassium with heart problems
When laxatives are stopped, water weight
gain increases and normal bowel function
does not easily return.
Diuretics may lead to dehydration and
fainting, low potassium levels, muscle
weakness, and heart problems.
Excessive exercise may cause stress
fractures, loss of menstrual periods, and
Diet pills do little to curb one’s appetite but
may cause anxiety, restlessness, depression,
increased heart rate, high blood pressure,
strokes, seizures, and heart attacks.
Sugar free candies, mints or gum which
contain Sorbitol® may cause bloating,
cramping, and diarrhea.
You need to contact your health care
provider for more information and follow-
What is the treatment?
Treatment for eating disorders may include
psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, family
therapy, and in some cases behavior therapy.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call i f you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4450.