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Since anorexia involves starving the body of nutrients, the effects are as damaging as malnutrition, which means that this disorder can end in death. Of course, some of the initial effects on the body do not seem so serious, ranging from brittle hair and nails, to dry skin and constipation. If the starvation continues, the loss of the menstrual period, called amenorrhea, can occur, sometimes leading to infertility. Anemia, loss of muscle, joint swelling, and low blood pressure are often also present. These are often precursors of more serious issues, including heart palpitations, osteoporosis, depression, and eventual death.
Some risks of anorexia are barely noticeable by others, though the person suffering from the disorder may notice the issues right away. For example, the hair becomes brittle and may even start to fall out, sometimes resulting in a bald spot on the head. The nails also become brittle, breaking easily. Constipation is another issue, and it is typically caused by both a lack of nutrients going into the body, and dehydration. Though these risks of anorexia are usually obvious to the person with the disorder, they may be attributed to other causes rather than the eating disorder itself.
If the starvation is continued, more serious issues may result. For example, anemia is one of the most common risks of anorexia, leading to weakness, dizziness, and excessive fatigue. Osteoporosis can also result since the bones often become less dense due to lack of nutrients, causing fragile bones that easily break. Amenorrhea, or the loss of the menstrual period for three or more months, is also a common sign of anorexia, and if this persists, it can lead to problems with fertility. The joints may also swell, and the blood pressure is often lower than usual, though is not usually apparent until a doctor's appointment.
Because anorexia starts as a mental problem, it is not surprising that depression is often a large part of the disorder. This can lead to high rates of suicide among anorexics. Those who do not suffer from depression or contemplate suicide may be afflicted by anxiety, substance abuse, or personality disorders, all of which have additional risks associated with them. Other risks of anorexia include heart problems, such as palpitations, which the anorexic may notice as the heart rate speeding up or slowing down while at rest. One of the most serious risks of anorexia is cardiac arrest, which is a common cause of death due to the deterioration of the heart muscle when the body is starving.