Complications of anorexia  

If anorexia nervosa isn't treated, it 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 complications 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 fits (seizures) and difficulties with concentration and memory
  • other problems – kidney damage, liver damage, anaemia and low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

Some people with anorexia develop another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa. This is where a person binge eats and 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'll need to be closely monitored during pregnancy and after you've given birth.

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

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

Page last reviewed: 26/01/2016

Next review due: 01/01/2019