Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is bulimia?
- What causes bulimia?
- How is bulimia diagnosed?
- What are signs that may suggest a person has bulimia?
- What medical complications and long-term effects can bulimia have?
- How is bulimia treated?
- Bulimia At A Glance
- Find a local Psychiatrist in your town
What medical complications and long-term effects can bulimia have?
The medical complications that result from bulimia are generally due to continual bingeing and purging. The type of purging behavior used can have varied effects on different body systems.
Self-induced vomiting can result in oral complications. Repeated exposure to acidic gastric contents can erode tooth enamel, increase dental cavities, and create a sensitivity to hot or cold food. Swelling and soreness in the salivary glands (such as the parotid glands in the cheeks) from repeated vomiting can also be a concern.
The esophagus and the colon are the areas most affected by bulimic behaviors. Repeated vomiting can result in ulcers, ruptures, or strictures of the esophagus. Acid that backs up from the stomach (reflux) can also become a problem.
As with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, irregular menstrual periods or amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods) may result from malnutrition or weight fluctuations associated with bulimia.
There are a number of intestinal and systemic complications. The misuse of diuretics can create an abnormal buildup of fluid (edema). Continual use of laxatives can result in dependency on them and can cause the normal elimination process to become dysfunctional. Loss of normal colonic function can necessitate surgical intervention in some cases. Restoration of normal bowel function may take weeks after the misuse has been discontinued. The misuse of diuretics and laxatives combined can place the bulimic at great risk for electrolyte imbalance, which can have life-threatening consequences. The complex physical and chemical processes involved in the maintenance of life can be disrupted with serious consequences by the continuation of bulimic and purging behaviors. Additional complications can affect an unborn fetus of a practicing bulimic or the infant of an active bulimic mother. Psychological problems can escalate to serious levels if untreated and interfere with the restoration of normal body functions.
Next: How is bulimia treated?
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