Complications of Bulimia
Effects of Bulimic Behavior on the Body
Many medical problems are directly associated with bulimic behavior, including:
- Tooth erosion, cavities, and gum problems
- Water retention, swelling, and abdominal bloating
- Acute stomach distress
- Fluid loss with low potassium levels (due to excessive vomiting or laxative use; can lead to extreme weakness, near paralysis, or lethal heart rhythms)
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Swallowing problems and esophagus damage
Forced vomiting can cause:
- Rupture of the esophagus
- Weakened rectal walls (a rare but serious condition that requires surgery)
|Click the icon to see an image of the rectum.|
A number of self-destructive behaviors occur with bulimia:
- Smoking. Many teenage girls with eating disorders smoke because they believe it will help prevent weight gain.
- Impulsive Behaviors. Women with bulimia may be at higher-than-average risk for dangerous impulsive behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, self-cutting, and kleptomania.
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Many patients with bulimia abuse alcohol, drugs, or both. Women with bulimia also frequently abuse over-the-counter medications, such as laxatives, appetite suppressants, diuretics, and drugs that induce vomiting (ipecac).
Review Date: 02/18/2011
Reviewed By: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.