- Hematological (blood). An estimated one-third of anorexic patients have mild anemia (low red blood cell count). Leukopenia (low white blood cell count) occurs in up to 50 percent of anorexic patients.
- Gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines). Normal movement in intestinal tract often slows down with very restricted eating and severe weight loss. Improved eating and associated weight gain often help to restore normal intestinal motility or movement.
- Renal (kidney). Some people with anorexia may restrict fluid intake or drink excessive amounts of fluid. Limited fluid intake can cause dehydration and highly concentrated urine. Excessive fluid intake can cause dilute urine, and also may lead to electrolyte abnormalities (see above). Polyuria (increased production of urine) may also develop in patients with anorexia when the kidneys’ ability to concentrate urine decreases. Renal changes usually return to normal with the restoration of normal weight.
- Endocrine (hormones). In females, amenorrhea (cessation of the menstrual cycle for at least three consecutive months when otherwise expected) is one of the hallmark symptoms of anorexia. Amenorrhea may precede severe weight loss and continue after normal weight is restored. Reduced levels of growth hormones are sometimes found on anorexic patients and may explain growth retardation sometimes seen in anorexic patients. Normal nutrition usually restores normal growth and menstrual cycles.
- Skeletal (bones). People with anorexia nervosa are at an increased risk for skeletal fractures (broken bones). When the onset of anorexic symptoms occurs before peak bone formation has been attained (usually mid to late teens), a greater likelihood of decreased bone mineral density and increased fracture risk exists.
Prevention of anorexia nervosa
Preventive measures to reduce the incidence of anorexia nervosa are not known at this time. However, early detection and intervention can reduce the severity of symptoms, enhance the child’s normal growth and development, and improve the quality of life experienced by children or adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Encouraging healthy eating habits and realistic attitudes toward weight and diet may also be helpful.