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What are the Effects of Bulimia?

By B. Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bulimia has a number of detrimental effects on the entire body, and, left untreated, can be fatal. The effects of bulimia will become more pronounced over time as the condition worsens, but initially they can be difficult to notice, often because people with the disease are usually very secretive. Aside from pronounced weight changes, the effects of bulimia include damage to the teeth and the throat such as tooth decay, sores, or ulcers, as well as dehydration, which can cause electrolyte imbalances and lead to death. A hoarse voice, broken blood vessels in the eyes and face, stomach pain, and overall weakness are also some of the more common symptoms of bulimia.

The effects of bulimia can vary depending on the person's behavior who is suffering from the disease. Some people go through a binge and purge cycle, in which they will eat a great deal of food and then induce vomiting, sometimes through the use of medication. Others will abuse laxatives or diuretics, which can cause the effects to differ slightly. For instance, people who abuse laxatives or diuretics, but do not induce vomiting, will not experience the mouth and esophageal ulcers, but they may experience chronic constipation due to the laxative use, or severe dehydration that may cause kidney damage.

Otherwise, the effects of bulimia tend to affect many different systems throughout the body. People with bulimia will often experience hair loss and the appearance of dry skin, and some have swelling of the hands and feet as well as the cheeks. Body temperature regulation becomes very difficult, and individuals often feel weak, tired, or dizzy, accompanied by insomnia. Bone and muscle loss can lead to osteoporosis. Some will also experience an irregular heart beat, cessation of the menstrual cycle, or severe nutrient deficiencies.

These are just some of the more common effects of bulimia. Typically, a change in tooth appearance is one of the more common signs; a dentist will often be the first one to notice that an individual is suffering from bulimia, because the teeth will appear yellow and damaged. Rapid changes in weight will often occur, but many people with bulimia are not actually underweight, making the disease even more difficult to identify. The eyes will often appear red and swollen as well. More subtle mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, and persistent poor body image, will also frequently accompany bulimia.

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