Complications of anorexia  

If anorexia nervosa is not treated, the condition can lead to a number of serious health problems.

In some cases, the condition can even be fatal.

Other health problems

Long-term anorexia can lead to severe complications and health problems, often as a result of malnutrition. Some of these may improve as the condition is treated, but others can be permanent.

Health problems associated with anorexia include:

  • problems with muscles and bones – including weakness, fragile bones (osteoporosis) and problems with physical development in children and young adults
  • sexual problems – including absent periods and infertility in women, and loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction in men
  • problems with the heart and blood vessels – including poor circulation, an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, heart valve disease, heart failure and swelling in the feet, hands or face (oedema)
  • problems with the brain and nerves – including seizures (fits) and difficulties with concentration and memory
  • other problems – kidney damage, liver damage, anaemia and low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

Some people with anorexia can go on to develop another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa. This is where a person binge eats then immediately makes themselves sick or uses laxatives to rid their body of the food.

Pregnancy complications

If you have anorexia and are pregnant, you will need to be monitored closely during pregnancy and after you have given birth.

Anorexia during pregnancy can increase the risk of problems such as:

You are also likely to need extra care and support during pregnancy if you have previously had anorexia and recovered from it.

Page last reviewed: 16/04/2014

Next review due: 16/04/2016