Can Anorexia Nervosa Cause Anemia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to starve themselves out of fear of gaining weight. Anemia is a condition in which the blood doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry an adequate supply of red blood cells to the body's tissue.

The two may sound completely unrelated, but they're not. Your eating disorder may be responsible for your anemia.

More About Anemia

There are different forms of anemia, and there are various underlying causes. Some people are anemic due to genetics. For some people, it's a side effect of blood loss, such as after an accident, or when there is extreme menstrual bleeding. Some diseases, such as cancer, kidney disease, or arthritis, can cause anemia. Most people who do have anemia do not have anorexia.

On the other hand, many people who have anorexia develop anemia.

How Anorexia Causes Anemia

Anorexia takes a huge toll on your entire body. The body requires food for fuel, and when you deprive it of that fuel, just about every system can be thrown out of balance due to malnutrition.

Poor diet is another cause of anemia. People deficient in iron, folate, and vitamin B-12, in particular, are at risk for developing anemia. Because people suffering from anorexia are malnourished, they are more likely to suffer from other conditions brought about by a lack of nutrients.

Is Anemia Serious?

Anemia can range from mild to severe cases. Severe cases can be serious—even deadly. Anemia, if not treated, can result in organ damage, an enlarged heart, or may result in pregnancy complications.

Symptoms

Anemia has a wide range of symptoms, which can be mild to severe, depending on the severity of the case. Some symptoms a person with anemia may experience include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, cold hands, and feet, mood swings, or an inability to concentrate.
Other symptoms that are more concerning include a change in heart rate, heart murmurs, chest pain, shortness of breath, jaundice, an enlarged spleen, bloody stool, or abdominal pain.

Treatments

In most cases, anemia is easily treated with supplements and/or medications. In more extreme cases, blood transfusions can help.

When you have anorexia, however, these kinds of treatments are just putting a bandaid on the problem; when the underlying cause of anemia is malnutrition, then the only way to really resolve the issue is to get treatment for anorexia.

Sources: The Recovery Village, Casa Palmera

Photo: Pexels

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