An eating disorder is a term used for several diseases all of which are characterized by inappropriate food consumption. Many people pay no attention to what they eat, many are prone to dieting but only certain amount becomes obsessed with food eventually developing some eating disorder. These individuals may go to extremes jeopardizing their health in general and causing malfunction of many organs and organ systems in their body.
Eating Disorders Effects on Health
The first thing many people suffering from anorexia nervosa face is malnutrition. Such patients reduce their food intake and become undernourished while lack of essential vitamins and minerals eventually leads to specific deficiencies. Apart from malnutrition some eating disorders may cause dehydration. This is reported in bulimic patients who vomit repeatedly and abuse laxatives. Such abnormal behavior is also blamed for various electrolyte imbalances like hyponatremia.
Inadequate intake of food and all essential nutrients is also connected with lanugo, edema, muscle atrophy an anemia. Lack of nutrients additionally reflects on the appearance of skin, hair and nails. Such individuals are also prone to dental problems like decalcification of teeth, erosion of tooth enamel and severe decay. Gum disease may occur too. Certain number of patients may develop osteopenia or even osteoporosis.
Patients who are prone to frequent purging may develop Mallory-Weiss tear (a tear of the gastroesophageal junction), gastric rupture (spontaneous gastric erosion or perforation) and gastrointestinal bleeding. Furthermore, constant irritation of the esophagus may cause specific changes in the organ (Barrett's esophagus) and in the long run even initiate esophageal cancer. Stomach acid also irritates the larynx and may cause hoarse voice. Bulimia patients also have callused or bruised fingers because these are frequently used to induce vomiting.
Patients suffering from eating disorders are generally tired, have sleeping problems and may end up with chronic fatigue syndrome. Depression and suicide may occur as well.
Women with eating disorders suffer from amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle), infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome and even if they manage to get pregnant, inadequate food consumption throughout pregnancy is blamed for miscarriages, still born babies and other pregnancy complications.
Finally, severe cases of eating disorders are characterized by bad circulation, slowed or irregular heat beat, arrhythmias and angina. Some patients may even develop a heart attack.
All in all, most of the mentioned imbalances are also blamed for lethal outcome.
What about Refeeding Syndrome?
Refeeding syndrome develops due to the initiation of aggressive nutritional support therapies in patients suffering from life-threatening fluid and electrolyte shifts. The syndrome occurs is severely malnourished patients, especially those receiving enteral or parenteral nutritional support.This issue can be successfully avoided if such patients undergo a slow increase in nutritional support. They are monitored daily during the first week of treatment until their body gets to normal and organ function as well as fluid and electrolyte balance are brought under control.