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Because Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder, it affects many different organ systems. The consumption of food and liquids is essential to life, and the functioning of all organ systems within the body. Malnutrition and vitamin/mineral deficiencies are a common complication associated with anorexia. Starvation leads to protein deficiency and complications in the cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine, integumentary, hematologic and reproductive systems.
Cardiovascular system disturbances are responsible for most of the deaths associated with anorexia nervosa. These worrisome signs include: hypotension, bradycardia, and decreased left ventricular mass. Patients who have this disease will likely be hypokalemic. Low potassium (hypokalemia) can result in QT prolongation, which in turn can result in heart arrhythmias and death.
Endocrinological system disturbances include amenorrhea, infertility, euthyroid sick syndrome, diabetes insipidus, and osteopenia (bone loss). Gastrointestinal system complications can include constipation, prolonged GI transit, and gastric atrophy.
Neurological system disturbances can include atrophy of the brain, especially the cerebral portions, loss of brain volume, generalized muscle weakness, and fatigue. Integumentary system disturbances such as dry scaly skin with brittle hair and nails can also result. Renal (Kidney) system complications may include dehydration and kidney damage, that results in diminished urine output. Electrolyte disturbances are very serious and can lead to life-threatening complications. Vomiting and diarrhoea can increase the imbalance of these electrolytes. For example, vomiting results in the loss of potassium, and low potassium can result in sudden cardiac death. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are also affected by anorexia nervosa.
These are only a few of the complications that can arise from starvation and nutritional deficiencies secondary to anorexia. It is a serious disease that must be addressed by a healthcare provider.
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