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Medical abnormalities in anorexic patients

Women suffering from anorexia nervosa have a high prevalence of problems with the metabolism, blood and skeleton.

Medical abnormalities in anorexic patients

Women suffering from anorexia nervosa have a high prevalence of problems with the metabolism, blood and skeleton.Researchers from the Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted a study on 214 women suffering from anorexia nervosa. They obtained the medical histories of all participants, along with nutritional evaluations, blood samples and bone mineral density tests.Less than 15 per cent of the women had normal bone densities, while 38.6 per cent were anaemic, 34.4 per cent had low white cell counts and 41.3 per cent had slow heart rates.
Low sodium and potassium levels were each seen in 19.7 per cent of the women, while low potassium known to be associated with purging was seen among women who denied purging behaviour. This may have been because the women were reluctant to admit to purging, but an association between low weight and low potassium levels cannot be ruled out. Other abnormalities included low blood pressure in 16.1 per cent of patients, low body temperature in 22.4 per cent and elevation of liver enzymes, indicative of liver disease, in 12.2 per cent.The findings underscore the importance of medical evaluation of patients with anorexia nervosa along with psychological treatment.
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As many has half of cases of anorexia nervosa go undiagnosed in the medical setting, hence physicians should consider a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in women of low weight who have these abnormalities. The absence of such abnormalities should not rule out the possibility of the disorder.Discussing these abnormalities with an anorexic patient can help with the denial common among those with the disorder. It can be extremely useful to motivate some patients towards recovery, for them to actually see in some objective measure the damage that is happening to their bodies.
Archives of Internal Medicine,
March 2005
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