There are many dangers in bulimia. A bulimic girl risks many serious health problems, including stomach ulcers, cardiac problems, and severe hormonal imbalances. Some of these problems, such are cardiac problems, may persist even if the bulimia is resolved.
Dangers in Bulimia
Some of the risks a bulimic girl incurs include:
- Stomach ulcers and other digestive problems.
- Stomach rupture due to extreme binging.
- Esophageal problems, including rupture of the esophagus, due to vomiting.
- Electrolyte imbalances due to dehydration and the loss of potassium and sodium in the body.
- Irregular heartbeat and other cardiac problems that can result in heart failure and even death.
- Kidney failure
- Osteoporosis (loss of bone density, resulting in very brittle bones)
- Tooth decay and loss due to frequent vomiting.
The risks are greatest in young girls who are still developing.
Dealing with the Dangers in Bulimia
When treating the dangers in bulimia, medical treatment must be the first step. A bulimic girl will not be able to benefit from psychotherapy (a necessary component of treatment) if she is physically ill.
IV fluids may be necessary to treat dehydration. Dehydration is a serious problem, as it can lead to kidney disease if not treated. It also leads to electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to heart problems.
Kidney failure may be able to be treated with medication, but it may require dialysis. In severe cases, it can be fatal. Kidney failure, even if treated, may cause lasting damage.
Pancreatitis may be resolved with IV fluids and pain medication, but in severe cases the pancreas can become infected. A bulimic girl often develops severe pancreatitis. It is treated with both IV and oral antibiotics. In the case of necrotizing pancreatitis, surgery is necessary.
An irregular heartbeat may be corrected with IV fluids and possibly ample nutrition. In other cases, medication may be required. The risk of cardiac arrest can be great, so correcting this problem is crucial. In some cases, especially when the bulimia has been going on for a while, the heart muscle may be damaged. This will not resolve even if the bulimia is resolved and the bulimic will always be at a higher risk for heart failure.
The treatment for osteoporosis involves the prevention of bone fractures and rebuilding bone density and strength. It is difficult to fully rebuild bone, however, so someone with osteoporosis will always have a higher risk of fractures. Getting adequate calcium and vitamin D can help. There are also medications that help improve bone density.
Malnutrition can be corrected with proper food intake and vitamin and mineral supplements. It can take a while to correct this, however.
Dental problems will not be resolved with treatment. Damage to teeth will be permanent.
Other Dangers in Bulimia
A bulimic girl often suffers from severe anxiety and depression. Major depression can be very dangerous as it can lead to suicide. It can be treated with antidepressant medication, but inpatient mental health treatment may be required for a time.
A bulimic girl may also suffer from substance abuse problems, which often require inpatient treatment. Substance abuse carries its own danger and health risks and exacerbates the health problems of bulimia.
Bulimics often withdraw from family and friends due to their disorder. This puts them at greater risk for depression. It also deprives them of much needed support for recovering. Part of treatment involves rebuilding relationships and the development of a support system.
There is a high risk of relapse even after treatment for bulimia. Ongoing care is needed to minimize this risk.