Anorexia can bring about symptoms of anemia. Learn more about how anorexia and anemia can affect a person’s life.
Yes. Anorexia is an eating disorder that can bring about anemia. People who experience anemia lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues. Anemia is a condition that typically causes people to feel weak, dizzy and fatigued.
Symptoms of anemia can range from mild to severe. According to Mayo Clinic, additional complications of anemia include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
Having a diet that is consistently low in iron, folate and vitamin B-12 increases a person’s chance of developing anemia. Because people with anorexia usually lack sufficient amounts of nutrients to maintain a healthy body, many individuals with the disorder develop anemia.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science analyzed the association between anorexia and anemia. The report indicated that between 21 and 39 percent of individuals with anorexia also deal with anemia.
The study also stated that the co-occurrence of anorexia and anemia can cause more severe symptoms if excessive weight loss occurs rapidly. More extreme symptoms can also occur if other mental health conditions, like depression or an anxiety disorder, exist.
Anemia can produce fatigue so severe that people can struggle to complete everyday tasks, like cleaning the house or grooming. Severe fatigue can also compromise a person’s performance at school or work.
Anorexia can also cause pregnancy complications, but people with anorexia who deal with anemia can experience more severe problems during pregnancy, like premature birth, low birth weight, feeding problems or stillbirth. People with anorexia who also experience anemia can increase their risk of heart problems or even death.
The co-occurrence of anorexia and anemia can be treated simultaneously. Symptoms of anemia typically subside upon receiving treatment for anorexia. As symptoms of anorexia decrease, so too do symptoms of anemia.
Mamou G, Sider A, Bouscary D, Moro MR, Blanchet-Collet C. “Anemia in Anorexia Nervosa: The Best Way to Deal with it-An Overview of Literature.” Journal of Human Nutrition & Food Science, April 23, 2016. Accessed February 19, 2019.
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