A Parent's Guide to Understanding Anorexia Part 2/2

What are the health consequences of Anorexia?

Dehydration. Dehydration causes strong smelling, dark urine. Mucous membranes become dry and tacky. Crying produces few tears. Skin and hair become dry. Irritability and anxiety become more apparent. Electrolytes become poorly balanced. Loss of coordination and confusion.

Kidney stones. A result of dehydration and lack of adequate fluids to process minerals in the body. Kidney stones are very painful. Smaller kidney stones generally pass on their own within a few days, however larger stones may need to be taken care of by a doctor.

Kidney failure. Again, a result of dehydration. Ultimately the kidneys will fail without adequate fluids and nutrients.

Extreme weight loss.
This is an obvious result of starvation. In extreme Anorexia an individual will literally be skin and bones. In this emaciated state, they will often believe they are still fat and will look at their bloated bellies, a result of gas production due to malnourishment, as an indication that they still need to lose weight.

Lanugo, a fine, white hair all over the body. This develops as a response to excessive fat loss and is the body''s way of keeping itself warm.

Irregular bowel habits. Without adequate fluids and fiber, the gastrointestinal system is unable to function properly. Constipation and diarrhea can result. The diarrhea leeches out even more fluids and electrolytes from an already lacking system.

Low blood pressure and risk of heart failure.

Muscle atrophy.
Without adequate protein the muscles are unable to rebuild and maintain themselves.

Hair loss and thinning, brittle, dry hair and fingernails. Hair and fingernails are often the first places that will show outward signs of malnourishment. The body, when it kicks in to ''starvation mode'' will see nourishing these as less important than other organs and will divert nutrients to more vital areas of the body for survival.


Inability to concentrate and memory problems. Extreme hunger, malnourishment, electrolyte imbalances and resultant change in brain chemistry cause an inability to concentrate.

Abdominal pain.

The combined effect of minimal nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D, and amenorrhea cause osteoporosis. The brittle bones can result in fractures. Long term effects can result in poor posture as well as broken bones.

Cold sensitivity.
Lack of body fat leads to poor insulation.

Fluid retention.

Loss of menstruation
which could lead to problems conceiving and infertility problems.

Iron deficiency anemia.

Easy bruising.

Yellow skin and nails.

Without treatment, Anorexia can result in premature death. Even with treatment the damage done to the heart muscle is often permanent.