Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eating Disorders - Complications of Bulimia

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:

The esophagus connects the mouth with the stomach. The epiglottis folds over the trachea when a swallow occurs, to prevent the swallowed substance from being inhaled into the lungs. When a person is unable to swallow because of illness or coma, a tube may be inserted either through the mouth or nose, past the epiglottis, through the esophagus and into the stomach. Nutrients pass directly through the tube into the stomach.
  • Rupture of the esophagus
  • Weakened rectal walls (a rare but serious condition that requires surgery)
Rectum Click the icon to see an image of the rectum.

Self-Destructive Behavior

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.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (