Bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that causes people to consume a large amount of food and then purge it, either by vomiting or taking laxatives, has many risks. Some of the risks of bulimia include tooth decay and swollen cheeks from vomiting frequently. More severe and serious risks of bulimia include heart failure, stomach rupture, and bowel disruption from using laxatives. Suicide may also result in extreme cases.
Most people who have bulimia are female. The irregular eating pattern can cause a woman to skip her period. One of the risks of bulimia is that a woman may never ovulate, especially if she has the disease from a young age. Bulimia also has effects on pregnancy if a woman has the disease while pregnant. A pregnant bulimic is more likely to miscarry or deliver a stillborn baby. In some cases, she may have high blood pressure during the pregnancy or may need a Cesarean section to deliver.
Risks of bulimia include damage to the stomach and esophagus. When a person vomits frequently, acid from the stomach travels up the esophagus, causing damage to the tissue of the esophagus. A bulimic may have a constant sore throat or may notice blood in her vomit. In some cases, the esophagus can rupture from the constant strain of vomiting.
The use of laxatives to help purge presents other risks. A bulimic can become dependent on the laxatives and may experience constipation if she does not use them. Use of ipecac syrup to help vomiting also has long-term risks. Abusing ipecac can lower a person's blood pressure, make breathing difficult, and in the worst cases lead to heart failure and death.
Bulimia also has an effect on a person's outward appearance. Unlike anorexia, bulimia does not cause drastic weight loss. A bulimic is usually of normal weight or even a bit overweight. Her weight can fluctuate rapidly as a result of the binge and purge cycle. Constant purging can lead to sores on the sides of the mouth and red eyes from the strain of vomiting.
Dental problems are also common in bulimics. Stomach acid can wear away tooth enamel, leading to cavities and decay. The worn down teeth are more sensitive to heat and cold, which can make eating painful. Some bulimics may have gingivitis or swollen gums as well.
Since bulimia is a mental disorder, suicide from low self-worth and image is another serious risk. The disorder is commonly accompanied by other mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Some people with bulimia have an increased risk of using illegal drugs or alcohol to cope with the pain.