The physical effects of anorexia nervosa can be minor. Often, the longer the person has anorexia, the more serious the physical effects of anorexia nervosa are. The physical effects may start as barely noticeable, but can lead to serious problems and even death.
People with anorexia often feel cold. Anorexia lowers the person’s body temperature. The extremities, such as the hands and feet, may be affected the most and may appear bluish or purple due to a lack of circulation. Anorexia can cause brittle nails and a tendency to bruise easily.
The hair and skin may show some physical effects of anorexia nervosa. The hair can become thinner. The skin may appear yellow and become thinner. Anorexia can cause thin, downy hair to grow on the body.
The lack of food intake associated with anorexia can cause muscle weakness and a lack of energy. Joint pain and bone fractures can occur with anorexia. In addition to bone fracture, the anorexia can cause osteoporosis due to a lack of calcium in the diet as well as decreased levels of estrogen. Anorexia can cause cavities and tooth decay.
The food limitation and starvation can cause difficulty concentrating. Depression is another mental effect of anorexia that has a physical cause.
Women with anorexia may stop menstruating. They may have fertility problems or pregnancy and delivery complications. The hormonal effects of anorexia also contribute to osteoporosis from anorexia.
Low blood pressure is a physical effect of anorexia nervosa. The heart can develop serious problems like an irregular heartbeat. An electrolyte imbalance is the physical effect that may cause the most deaths due to anorexia.
Intestinal symptoms are common in people have anorexia. Constipation and bloating are frequent problems associated with anorexia. Intestinal problems can be worse for people with anorexia who starve themselves or fast and then binge immediately afterwards.
People with anorexia should seek emergency medical treatment if they become unable to pass urine, have severe abdominal pain, or have tar-like stools. If the person has been fainting or has a slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat, the person should seek immediate medical treatment.