Medical complications of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa

James E. Mitchell, Scott Crow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review focuses on recent publications concerning medical complications in patients with eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. RECENT FINDINGS: Recent literature continues to reflect that multiple organ systems are frequently affected by eating disorders. The literature underscores the frequently cited risk of premature death in those with anorexia nervosa. A plethora of dermatologic changes have been described, some signaling serious underlying pathophysiology, such as purpura, which indicates a bleeding diathesis. Much of the literature continues to delineate the fact that diabetic patients with eating disorders are at high risk of developing diabetic complications. Gastrointestinal complications can be serious, including gastric dilatation and severe liver dysfunction. Acrocyanosis is common, and patients with anorexia nervosa are at risk of various arrhythmias. Low-weight patients are at high risk for osteopenia/osteoporosis. Nutritional abnormalities are also common, including sodium depletion and hypovolemia, hypophosphatemia and hypomagnesemia. Resting energy expenditure, although very low in low-weight patients, increases dramatically early in refeeding. SUMMARY: Medical complications are common and often serious in patients with eating disorders, particularly those with anorexia nervosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-443
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Diabetes
  • Medical complications
  • Premature death


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