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Bulimia Nervosa

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 16 Apr 2010 | comments*Discuss
Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia Eating Disorder

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a disorder which completely disrupts sufferers' healthy eating patterns. A person with bulimia nervosa becomes increasingly unable to relate normally to food and instead develops a dependency on a chaotic cycle of bingeing and purging. Typically they alternate between the frantic activity of binge-eating and the subsequent state of panic and the need to get rid of what has just been eaten. People with bulimia nervosa either make themselves vomit or use laxatives or diuretics - or a combination of these - to purge themselves of the food they have consumed. Others do not purge in this way, but instead have a period of excessive fasting or exercise to compensate for their overeating.

Who Suffers From Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa often goes untreated, so it is very difficult to find accurate statistics. Current studies put the figure around 1-2 percent of women in the UK, but the actual figures are probably much higher than this. Bulimia nervosa primarily affects adolescent and young adult females. (1-4% of females between 18-30 years suffer from it). 1 in 10 patients are male. 1/3 of those who suffer from bulimia nervosa have a history of anorexia nervosa. 1/3 of those who suffer from bulimia nervosa have a history of obesity. Bulimia is not just about food but is intricately in twined with self esteem, desires and body image, so it is complicated to treat and can ultimately becomes life threatening.

Causes of Bulimia Nervosa

Specific causes of bulimia are unknown. It is indicated, however that sufferers often attempt to control their weight to the point of pushing themselves to abnormally low levels. This is often an initiating factor for bulimia nervosa, even when the sufferer initially as a normal weight at the outset. Factors in the patient's social environment are important, including the cultural pressure for women in the Western world to aspire to an unnaturally slim body weight. However, most people with bulimia nervosa maintain a normal body weight. Patients with bulimia nervosa often suffer from low self esteem and sometimes depression.

Health Problems Caused by Bulimia Nervosa:

Bulimia nervosa can lead to serious medical problems. The following are all consequences of bulimia nervosa. The first two health problems are the most common, but all the problems listed can occur.
  • Tooth decay
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Bowel damage
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Intestinal damage
  • Increased hair growth on face and body
  • Mineral imbalances

Some Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Changing weight gain of 5-20 pounds per week.
  • Dry lips and skin around the mouth.
  • Swollen lymph nodes and parotid gland enlargement.
  • Broken blood vessels in an around eyes (blood shot eyes) due to stretch and strain of repeated vomiting.
  • Callous on or near the first knuckle of the index finger due to pushing against the upper teeth to induce vomiting.
  • Enamel erosion of all teeth due to the chronic exposure to acid in vomit.

Treatments Options

  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, gastroenterologists, dieticians and dental professionals.
  • Psychological treatment is a major component.
  • Dental treatment should occur immediately if the patient is in pain or if there is extensive tooth loss.
  • Dental treatment may be discouraged until the patient is psychologically ready and the eating disorder is controlled.

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